MacManus Inc

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Founded by legendary copywriter Theodore "Ted" MacManus, MacManus Inc was one of several companies which became part of the advertising agency network later known as D'Arcy or DMB&B. The name was later resurrected to provide the banner for MacManus Group, the holding company of DMB&B and other assets from 1996 to 1999. D'Arcy was itself absorbed into Publicis, Leo Burnett and other agencies in 2002.

The original MacManus agency was founded in Toledo in 1911. Theodore Francis MacManus had dabbled in a number of different jobs in newspaper and retail advertising before setting up his own one-man agency. Hired by General Motors and transplanted to Detroit, MacManus worked on several of the car giant's brands, but his biggest success was with Cadillac, which he carefully positioned as the standard for luxury automobiles. Most advertising copywriters in the early years of the 20th century were specialists in hard-sell hucksterism, producing copy designed to fulfill their clients' needs to sell that product and sell it now. MacManus on the other hand preferred a more considered and thoughtful, even poetic, approach. "We are haunted by the ghost of mushroom reputations; quickly made and quickly lost," he wrote in 1910. Instead he attempted to write copy which would inspire trust in the advertiser on the part of the consumer. "The real suggestion to convey is that the man manufacturing the product is an honest man, and that the product is an honest product, to be preferred above all others." The end-result of such an approach, he believed, was that the product would effectively sell itself.

One ad he wrote for Cadillac became established as a classic despite the fact that it appeared only once (in the Saturday Evening Post on January 2nd 1915) and didn't even mention the client by name. Entitled The Penalty of Leadership, it was a response to a negative campaign then being aimed at Cadillac by rival manufacturer Packard. Far from being a traditional advertisement, it more closely resembles a piece of inspirational philosophy. "In every field of human endeavor, he that is first must perpetually live in the white light of publicity," wrote MacManus. "When a man's work becomes a standard for the whole world, it also becomes a target for the shafts of the envious few." The ad concluded: "That which is good or great makes itself known, no matter how loud the clamor of denial. That which deserves to live -- lives."

The ad caused a sensation within the automobile industry, and indeed in the general business community as a whole. It also proved enormously popular with Cadillac dealers who ordered thousands of reprints to display or hand out to customers. Even 30 years later it swept the board in a survey among advertising executives of the greatest ad of all time, and MacManus's style was a key influence on other writers, perhaps most notably Ray Rubicam of Y&R. A series of similarly declamatory ads followed with considerable success, and MacManus's services were in great demand. Among other assignments, former GM manager Walter Chrysler hired him to launched the Chrysler Company in 1923.

However, the economic necessities brought on by the Great Depression at the end of the decade prompted the industry in general to veer in the opposite direction from the "highbrow" approach pioneered by MacManus. He responded by penning a series of newspaper and magazine articles attacking the "wise-cracking inanities" perpetrated by his fellow admen. One such piece in the New York Times asked, "Are we all silly, or is it just advertising that is silly? Probably we are all silly, but we all have our underlying sanities. Advertising has gone amuck in that it has mistaken the surface silliness for the sane solid substance of an averagely decent human nature."

Heading towards retirement, in 1933 MacManus took on James Adams and WAP John, two experienced automobile copywriters then at Campbell-Ewald, to become his partners, creating MacManus John & Adams. A devout Catholic, he retired in 1936 to concentrate on the running of a lay church he founded near his home in Bloomington Hills, Michigan, and died in 1940. The agency continued in Adams and John's capable hands. Adams inherited MacManus's role as the guardian of all Cadillac's advertising until his own death in 1956.

Over the next few years, MacManus John & Adams expanded steadily, acquiring a series of regional US agencies mainly to act as local outposts for its two key accounts of Cadillac and Pontiac, as well as Dow Chemicals. In 1971, the agency took the opportunity to pool its resources with D'Arcy Advertising, based in St Louis, to form D'Arcy-MacManus International. Following subsequent mergers, the MacManus brand was dropped altogether in 1985, only to be resurrected in 1996 for the name of DMB&B's newly create parent company.

Last full revision 30th October 2017


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