Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn, Inc. recordsCreation: 1892-2019
Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn Inc. (BBDO) is a worldwide advertising agency network headquartered in New York City. The company began in 1891 as the George Batten Company. In 1928, it merged with Barton, Durstine & Osborn. With locations in eighty-one countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, Germany, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Spain, UAE, and seven in the United States, BBDO is among the world’s most awarded advertising agencies. The records cover the entire span of BBDO’s existence, beginning with the George Batten Company in 1891. The collection includes advertisement tear sheets, films, ledgers, marketing reports, personnel files, photographs, press coverage, publications, research reports, slides, and speeches.
- Creation: 1892-2019
- Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn, Inc (Organization)
156.5 Linear Feet
1513 photographic prints : b&w ; 8 x 10 in. or smaller. 1417 photographic prints : color ; 8 x 10 in. or smaller. 2419 negatives : color ; various sizes. 482 negatives : b&w ; various sizes. 874 slides : color ; 35 mm. 107 contact sheets. 39 sound discs. 33 sound tape reels. 11 sound cassettes. 13 videotapes (U-Matic). 4 videotapes (VHS). 34 films : sd., col. ; 16 mm. 14 films : sd., b&w ; 16 mm. 4 films : si., col. ; 16 mm. 2 films : si., b&w ; 16 mm.
Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn Inc. (BBDO) is a worldwide advertising agency network headquartered in New York City. The company began in 1891 as the George Batten Company. In 1928, it merged with Barton, Durstine & Osborn. With locations in eighty-one countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, Germany, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Spain, UAE, and seven in the United States, BBDO is among the world’s most awarded advertising agencies. In addition to supplying clients with all the advantages of a full-service agency, it offers such support services as public relations, direct marketing, sales promotion, graphic arts, graphic design, and printing.
On March 15, 1891, George Batten (1854-1918) opened the George Batten Company in a one-room office in the Potter Building, New York City, with no clients and one employee, Margaret F. Hopkins. Three months later, they had their first client: George Macbeth Lamp Chimney Company. Batten intended to make advertising pay the advertiser, and orders were solicited and secured on that basis and with a state percent of the expenditure as profit for the agency and no other source of profit. In June 1892, William H. Johns (1868-1944) was hired as the second employee and would remain with the agency over the next fifty years.
By 1918, the George Batten Company had established additional offices in Boston and Chicago; became the first agency to have a telephone and install in-house printing; picked up Hammermill Paper Company and Armstrong Cork Company as clients; and handled the political advertising campaign of Charles Evans Hughes (1862-1948), Republican candidate for President of the United States running against Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924). Batten and Johns worked hard to standardize many advertising procedures – uniform commissions, published rate cards, and the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Johns was elected as the second president following Batten’s death in February 1918.
Bruce Barton (1886-1967), Roy S. Durstine (1886-1962), and Alex F. Osborn (1888-1966) met during World War I in Washington, DC, while all were engaged in the United War Work Campaign. This was a massive fundraising enterprise to help the YMXA, YWCA, the Salvation Army, and four other national welfare agencies. Barton was a magazine editor and prolific writer, writing two best-selling books The Man Nobody Knows on the life of Christ and The Book Nobody Knows on the Bible. Osborn was the business manager of the E.P. Remington advertising agency in Buffalo, New York, and was forming his famous process to induce creative thinking – which later became known as brainstorming. Durstine had been a reporter but added advertising training with Calkins & Holden and later partnered in a small agency of his own, Berrien & Durstine.
The idea of starting an agency was first hatched between Barton and Osborn in the Oyster Bar of Grand Central Station late in 1918. Osborn suggested Durstine as a likely partner to look after the business end. On January 2, 1919, Barton & Durstine opened for business. Barton took no salary the first year, planning to live on his earnings as a freelance writer of magazine articles, and Durstine only took $100 a week for his salary. On August 1, 1919, Osborn joined them but insisted on operating from Buffalo. Thus, Barton, Durstine & Osborn (BDO) was formed.
By 1928, BDO grew to become the fourth-largest agency, found success in radio (an hour show for Atwater Kent), and had clients such as General Electric and General Motors. The George Batten Company and BDO had both moved their offices to 383 Madison Avenue, with each serving a separate list of clients. On September 15, 1928, the two agencies merged to form Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborn (BBDO). At the time of the merger, the agencies had 113 clients, 600 employees, regional offices in Boston, Buffalo, and Chicago, and billings of about $33 million.
On April 10, 1939, Durstine resigned from BBDO and, by July, had formed his own agency, Roy S. Durstine Inc. Osborn became executive vice president and general manager. He devised the policies which changed BBDO from essentially an institutional advertising agency to one based broadly on packaged goods. He expanded the agency’s research and marketing services and changed the complexion of BBDO’s ownership structure, expanding to 221 employee stockholders.
BBDO seized upon television even before World War II, training its people at an experimental GE transmitter. Bernard C. “Ben” Duffy (1902-1972), elected president in 1945, grabbed on to the possibilities television presented and made nighttime television his personal preserve. He turned the agency into a television production outfit. About 150 people worked at writing and producing shows, and by the early 1950s, the top ten TV shows were sponsored by BBDO clients. Duffy brought in American Tobacco Company as a client, and the lineup for them alone included the “Lucky Strike Hit Parade,” “Robert Montgomery Presents,” “This is Show Business,” “Private Secretary,” and “The Jack Benny Show.”
With Duffy forced to step back due to his health, a new head was chosen in 1957: Charlie Brower (1901-1984). In less than a decade, Brower grew the agency’s billings from $200 million to $250 million. He made management changes that resulted in better organizational control throughout the entire agency. Basic services such as media, marketing, research, and public relations were honed into professionally staffed departments. The agency also expanded internationally, with more than fifty affiliate agencies on five continents, international headquarters in London, and offices in Milan, Paris, Frankfurt, and Vienna.
Over the next thirty years, several prominent ad-men worked for BBDO, including Tom Dillon (1915-1986), James Jordan (1930-2004), Dick Mercer (1924-2006), Bruce Crawford (1929-), Allen Rosenshine (1939-), and Phil Dusenberry (1936-2007).
In 1971, BBDO International was created as the parent holding company for BBDO, with Dillon as CEO. Four years later, Dillon became chairman, Crawford became president of BBDO International, and Jordan became president of BBDO. Due to creative differences and differing visions for the agency, Jordan left BBDO and opened his own agency.
In 1986, BBDO International merged with Doyle Dane Bernbach and Needham Harper Worldwide to form the first three-way merger in advertising history and a global creative superpower, operating under the newly established Omnicom holding company umbrella. BBDO became BBDO Worldwide, one of two agency networks operating under the Omnicom umbrella. The other network, born out of the physical merger of Doyle Dane Bernbach and Needham Harper, was DDB Needham. Many of the small, regional, and specialty agencies owned by each of the three merged agencies were subsumed into a new third grouping called Diversified Agency Services. Rosenshine, BBDO’s president and CEO, the prime mover behind the merger, became president and CEO of Omnicom. Rosenshine returned to BBDO as chairman in 1989, with Crawford succeeding him at Omnicom.
BBDO moved its headquarters from Madison Avenue in 1987 to 1285 Avenue of the Americas, near Rockefeller Center. It has won several awards, including being named Advertising Age’s agency of the year multiple times. Additionally, multiple Super Bowl commercials have won meter polls. In 2004, Andrew Robertson was named president and CEO of BBDO Worldwide.
BBDO is responsible for many memorable campaigns, including DuPont’s “Better things for better living through chemistry,” Campbell’s “Soup on the rocks,” and “M’m, m’m, good!” United Fruit Company’s “Chiquita banana,” Pepsi’s “Come alive. You’re in the Pepsi generation,” “Have it your way” jingle for Burger King, and “You’re not you when you’re hungry” from Snickers.
Scope and Contents
The Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn Inc. (BBDO) records cover the entire span of BBDO’s existence, beginning with the George Batten Company in 1891. The collection contains advertisement tear sheets, films, ledgers, marketing reports, personnel files, photographs, press coverage, publications, research reports, slides, and speeches. Early records document the development of the George Batten Company and Barton, Durstine and Osborn as separate advertising agencies prior to merging in 1928.
The collection documents the work BBDO did on a variety of levels. From the corporate, executive, and board-level to individual clients and employees, along with a variety of departments. In some cases, speeches and writings by staff as well as certain topics can be found in multiple series. Attempts to mitigate were made, but in some instances, multiple departments worked on very similar topics.
The collection is arranged into thirteen series: BBDO history, BBDO Worldwide, Corporate, Personnel, Services, Clients, Departments, Marketing Department, Media Department, Public Relations Department, Research Department, House organs and publications, and Other advertising agencies. Detailed scope and content notes can be found at the series level.
Researchers interested in advertising history, notable advertising campaigns, the relationship between agency and client, and innovative marketing approaches would find these materials a useful resource. Printed materials have been transferred to Published Collections and can be found by searching the library catalog.
Existence and Location of Copies
View selected items online in the Hagley Digital Archives.
Records subject to 25-year time seal.
Negatives and slides are stored offsite in cold storage (Box 123). At least 48 hours notice required to allow retrieval of these items.
Film material is housed in cold storage and must reacclimate prior to viewing (Film Cans 1-40). Please contact at least 48 hours in advance of research visit.
Hagley Museum and Library does not have playback equipment for the 2" open reel videotape.
Copyright restrictions may apply.
Language of Materials
Publications were transferred to the Published Collections Department and are now cataloged in Hagley’s library catalog. Contact the Published Collections Department for details.
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn, Inc. records
- Ashley Williams
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