J. Walter Thompson
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|Predecessor||Carlton & Smith|
|Founded||New York, New York, U.S. (1864)|
|Founder||William James Carlton|
New York, New York,
Number of employees
|10,000 (January 2015)|
J. Walter Thompson (JWT), incorporated by James Walter Thompson in 1896, in 2018 was "the biggest of five advertising holding companies that control a significant portion of the world's advertising, marketing and communications firms." It has been owned by WPP plc since 1987.
Pre-James Walter Thompson
The New York Times wrote that "the agency traces its roots to a newspaper space brokerage that began operation on Dec. 5, 1864." 
As of 2014, among its most longstanding clients are Unilever/Lever Brothers (109+ years); Mondelēz International/Kraft Foods (89+ years); Kimberly-Clark (84+ years); Nestlé (81+ years); Kellogg's (80+ years); and Ford Motor (67+ years). Other notable clients include Avon, Treasury Wine Estates, Edgewell/Schick, Tudor, HSBC, Johnson & Johnson, Newell, Air Canada and the United States Marine Corps.
JWT celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2014 by reverting to its "classic" J. Walter Thompson name. The company had self-identified as JWT beginning "in 2005, 18 years after it was acquired by WPP."
It traces its origins to the Carlton & Smith agency, which opened its doors in 1864, one of the first known advertising agencies in the United States. Founder William James Carlton started selling advertising space in religious magazines, but almost nothing is known about the partner named Smith.
1868 and beyond
In 1868, Carlton hired James Walter Thompson as a bookkeeper. Eventually, Thompson found that soliciting and sales were much more profitable, and he became a very effective salesman for the small company.
In 1877, Thompson purchased the business of his employer for $500 and, a year later, purchased the office furniture for $800. He changed the company designation to J. Walter Thompson, as he felt that James Thompson was too common a name in New York. One of his first clients was a personal friend – Robert Wood Johnson, one of the three brothers who founded Johnson & Johnson – for whom Thomson personally wrote advertising for the toothpaste brand Zonweis
Thompson, who had served as a U.S. Marine during the Civil War, had first been employed by Carlton & Smith to sell space in religious publications. Under his leadership, the agency became the seller of advertising space in many American magazines and periodicals. By 1889, 80 percent of the advertising in the United States was placed through J. Walter Thompson.
More growth followed, and J. Walter Thompson became the first American agency to expand internationally with the opening of J. Walter Thompson London in 1899. The business subsequently expanded across the globe, being one of the first American agencies in Egypt, South Africa and Asia.
J. Walter Thompson was among the first agencies to employ writers and artists to create interesting advertisements for their clients, replacing the standard ads created by in-house departments. It was also the first agency to provide a wide range of advertising services to clients, including copy, layout, package design, trademark development and rudimentary, market research. Many of these methods can be seen in notable work that the agency has produced, including work for Kraft Cheese that resulted in the creation of the grilled-cheese sandwich, a campaign for Swift & Co. that added measurement marks to sticks of butter, the Toys "R" Us Kid slogan and jingle, De Beers diamond ads ("A Diamond is Forever") and the "I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Weiner" campaign.
WPP's J. Walter Thompson is headquartered in New York City. It has more than 200 offices in over 90 countries and employs over 12,000 marketing professionals. The agency is credited with hiring the first female copywriter, Helen Lansdowne Resor. While with the agency, she pioneered ideas including celebrity testimonials, sex appeal, and was responsible for developing its reputation as an agency where bright young women could succeed. Lansdowne went on to become the first female creative director in the industry. To honor this legacy, in 2014 J. Walter Thompson announced a $250,000 scholarship opportunity called the Helen Lansdowne Resor Scholarship. It assists and promotes talented female creative advertising students who aspire to join the ranks of creative leadership.
JWT has launched Colloquial, a content-marketing joint venture unit with Group SJR; acquired WANDA Digital, an independent digital agency in Turkey; and acquired iStrategyLabs (ISL), a Washington, D.C.-based digital agency.
The New York Times reported that "some two million other documents ... (are) .. within the J. Walter Thompson Archives at Duke University in Durham, N.C."  Among these are internal position papers for JWT being challenged by and countering the American Medical Association. Many of these documents are the basis of the agency's award-winning creative work.
Under Matt Eastwood, JWT’s worldwide chief creative officer, JWT earned a total of 80 Lions at the 2016 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, its highest total ever at that point. Of the 80, the company earned two Grand Prix, an Innovation Lion, a Product Design Lion, nine Gold Lions, 23 Silver Lions and 43 Bronze Lions, alongside 122 shortlists. JWT LATAM was also named the Cannes LATAM Network of the Year, and JWT Amsterdam was named the Cannes Innovation Agency of the Year.
In May 2018 Jo Wallace the creative director of the London branch, who identifies as a gay woman, stated at Creative Equals conference that she would "obliterate JWT’s reputation as an agency full of white, English, privileged, straight men". According to a Business Insider article, five straight, white men queried this statement with the company's human resources department and were later fired. The men have reportedly retained a solicitor to consider a case of discrimination.
In the mid-1970s, J. Walter Thompson was hired by the military dictatorship of Chile, led by Augusto Pinochet, to "refurbish the image of the regime" after international and Chilean human-rights organizations had documented extensive violations.
- Ad Council
- Air Canada
- Amnesty International
- Anheuser-Busch InBev
- Blockbuster LLC
- BTS Skytrain
- Campari Group
- Cancer Council Australia
- Comex Group
- Eli Lilly and Company
- Energy Star
- Human Rights Watch
- ING Group
- Instituto Ayrton Senna
- Johnson & Johnson
- Kumho Tire
- Mad Catz Interactive SharkWire Online for Nintendo 64
- Merrill Lynch
- Miller Brewing Company
- Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom)
- Mitsui Chemicals
- Mondelez International
- Morinaga Milk Industry
- Namco Hometek/Tekken 4
- Newell Brands
- Nokia/Microsoft Mobile
- Northwell Health
- Northwestern Mutual
- Partnership for Drug-Free Kids
- Puma SE
- Royal Automobile Club of Australia
- Royal Caribbean
- Samsung Electronics
- The Secret Garden
- Tim Hortons
- Toys R Us
- Tribeca Film Festival
- United Service Organizations
- United States Marine Corps
- USA Network
- Victim Support
- Volvo Cars
- Woodbury Soap, "A skin you love to touch" (1911)
- JWT invents the grilled cheese sandwich for Kraft (1930)
- JWT sells Kellogg's Rice Krispies with "Snap, Crackle, and Pop" (1930)
- Introduced the first paper two for Scott Paper (1931)
- Introduced Kraft Miracle Whip (1933)
- Produced the first-ever TV program for Libby, McNeill & Libby (1939)
- Ford, "There’s a Ford in your future" (1945)
- JWT creates "The Bologna Song" (1962) and the "I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Weiner" song for Oscar Mayer (1962)
- United States Marine Corps, "The Few. The Proud. The Marines." (1972)
- JWT creates the Andrex Puppy. (1972)
- 7UP, "The Uncola" (1967)
- JWT uses Sarah Michelle Gellar in a controversial Burger King ad that criticized McDonald's (1981)
- JWT creates Toys "R" Us "I don’t want to grow up" campaign (1982)
- JWT launches Ford Global Anthem (1999)
- JWT Thompson breaks the Guinness World Record for the world's largest billboard (2000)
- The Times of India, "Lead India"; wins a Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions festival (2008).
- Samsonite "Heaven and Hell"; JWT Shanghai wins a Grand Prix at Cannes (2011).
- Banco Popular, "The Most Popular Song"; JWT Puerto Rico wins the Grand Prix for PR at Cannes (2012)
- Kit Kat, "Kit Kat into space" campaign by JWT London (2012)
- Kit Kat, "Android KitKat" (2014)
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