JWT is the world’s best-known marketing communications brand and a true global network with 200 offices in over 90 countries employing nearly 10,000 marketing professionals.
In 1864 the company was founded in New York as Carlton and Smith, an advertising broker buying and selling space in the popular religious journals of the nineteenth century. The firm was later purchased and renamed by James Walter Thompson in 1878. Under Thompson's leadership the company expanded its operations to include ad placement in women's magazines—an innovation to which the young business owed much of its success. As early as the 1890s, the company established branch offices in Boston, Chicago, and London. It also began creating advertisements and aiding clients in the development of trademarks and package designs.
The John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History at Duke University maintains an archive of the history of JWT. This collection is the most complete and informative corporate records of the history of modern advertising, and consists of over 5,000 linear feet of materials. Many of our pioneering ads can be found in these Duke archives. The archive is accessible both online and by invitation in Durham, North Carolina: http://library.duke.edu/specialcollections/hartman/guides/jwt.html
By the early decades of the twentieth century, J. Walter Thompson created the very first advertisements for brands that are well-known products to the American consumer today. The company employed innovative methods in its advertising included the use of photography and testimonials, such as employing royalty and socialites for Pond's.
Company established a Research Department in 1915 and hired eminent academics such as John B. Watson, the founder of behavioral psychology. These professionals added a new dimension to marketing research. J. Walter Thompson applied motivational studies to advertising, initiated the use of scientific and medical findings as a basis for copy, and established the Consumer Panel, which surveyed family buying habits and supplied the findings to clients.
When General Motors Export Corporation became a client in 1927 the Company saw the opportunity to expand beyond the United States and Great Britain. Thompson offices were opened throughout Europe and in Africa, Asia, Australia, and Latin America.
Thompson also expanded into the new advertisement medium of radio. The Radio Department produced some of the most popular shows on the air during the 1930s and 1940s, including "Kraft Music Hall," "Lux Radio Theater," and "The Chase and Sanborn Hour." Thompson's success in radio was repeated in the new medium of television. The company produced television's first variety show, "The Hour Glass," and its first dramatic show, "Kraft Television Theater." By the late 1950s the networks were assuming the agencies' and advertisers' program activities, but Thompson nevertheless helped develop "Father Knows Best," "Naked City," "Wagon Train," "Ozzie and Harriet," "Kraft Music Hall," "Bat Masterson," and "Have Gun, Will Travel."
J. Walter Thompson became a publicly held corporation in 1969. Its international billings topped those from the United States for the first time in 1973. In 1980 the firm was reorganized to form a new holding company, JWT Group Inc., with J. Walter Thompson as the largest subsidiary. Other subsidiaries were advertising, public relations, and marketing firms that Thompson had acquired during the 1970s. In June 1987 JWT Group was merged with the British company WPP Group.