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Kaplan Thaler was one of the rising stars in the Publicis Groupe portfolio for a decade from 2002 to 2012. It managed an impressive series of account wins, pleasing clients as well as its owners at Publicis with its ability to triumph over more highly rated competitors. The agency's old-style creative output sometimes bordered on corny or irritating but was memorable nonetheless. The AFLAC duck and Herbal Essences "Yes! Yes!" ads may not have been great art, but they certainly stuck in the mind. More importantly they sold product too.
Linda Kaplan Thaler originally made her name as a creative director at JWT and Wells Greene BDDP in her 20s, and is widely credited with writing the celebrated Kodak Moments jingle in the 1970s. She founded her own agency in 1997 around the capture of the big budget Toys 'R Us account. However two years later the business moved, and Kaplan Thaler was promptly bought by MacManus Group. When MacManus was itself acquired later that same year, Kaplan Thaler became a standalone shop within BCom3, primarily handling the Clairol account, for which it created several high profile in-your-face commercials featuring actress Julia-Louis Dreyfus. Love them or loathe them, the ads certainly worked and obviously impressed BCom3's subsequent owners Publicis. As part of the consolidation of BCom3 and Publicis's various subsidiaries during 2002, Kaplan Thaler received a huge boost when it was given the task of absorbing America's oldest advertising institution, NW Ayer.
As CEO and chief creative officer, Linda Kaplan Thaler was then the only woman in advertising to hold those titles simultaneously. She was elected as Advertising Woman of the Year in 2001, and maintained a high profile in the US media industry, not least through the authorship of several books with business partner Robin Koval, latterly CEO of the agency. In 2003 the pair wrote their first book, setting out the agency's Big Bang advertising philosophy, which aims to develop ideas which allow a brand to "explode into the marketplace virtually overnight". A second book, The Power of Nice, was published in 2006, followed by The Power of Small in 2009 and Grit to Great in 2015.
Meanwhile, Kaplan Thaler Group built up an impressive roster of clients, not least AFLAC and P&G, but also restaurant chain Wendy's and several substantial pharmaceutical manufacturers. Advertising Age estimated revenues of almost $61m in 2011. In summer 2012, the parent group merged Kaplan Thaler with the New York office of Publicis Worldwide to form Publicis Kaplan Thaler, initially under the leadership of chairman Linda Kaplan Thaler and CEO Robin Koval. Koval departed in 2013 in become CEO of anti-smoking organisation Truth. Publicis Kaplan Thaler shortened its name to Publicis New York in 2015; Kaplan Thaler herself departed the following year, and now runs her own consultancy, Kaplan Thaler Productions.
See Publicis North America for more.
Last full revision 6th March 2018
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