The Story of the Ad Council
The idea for the Ad Council was born in November 1941. Days later, with the entry of the U.S. into World War II, we were christened The War Advertising Council and soon created a campaign to sell War Bonds. More than sixty years and hundreds of campaigns later, the Ad Council remains America's leading producer of public service communications.
Read through the major events of our history on this page. For the full Ad Council story, download the Matters of Choice brochure.
When you’re done brushing up on our history, test your Ad Council knowledge with our Trivia Challenge!
James Webb Young makes "What action can be taken?" speech, which spurs formation of an advertising council
Group is christened "War Advertising Council".
1942 - 1945
"Rosie the Riveter," "Buy War Bonds" and "Loose Lips" campaigns created
Smokey Bear created by Foote, Cone & Belding
President Roosevelt urges Ad Council to continue its work in peacetime; Ad Council begins work with National Safety Council
Campaigns focus on atomic weapons, world trade, religious tolerance
Theodore Repplier becomes Ad Council president
Eleanor Roosevelt and General Eisenhower appear in anti-communism ads. Korea conflict restarts war bond campaign
Ad Council sponsors broadcast of CARE
Fund-raising for Red Cross campaigns
Campaign for Salk polio vaccine begins
Peace Corps launches 30-year campaign, "The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love"
Robert Keim succeeds Theodore Repplier as Ad Council president
UNCF launches "A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste" campaign
"Crying Indian" wins two Clio awards
McGruff the crime dog takes first bite out of crime
Drug abuse and alcoholism campaigns begin
Nancy Reagan asks America to "Just Say No"
Vince & Larry, the crash-test dummies, encourage Americans to buckle up
Ruth Wooden succeeds Robert Keim as Ad Council president
First AIDS campaign begins
Ad Council launches Commitment 2000 program addressing children's issues
Peggy Conlon succeeds Ruth Wooden as Ad Council president
Ad Council selected to manage groundbreaking $1 billion ONDCP Media Match Program
Donated media soars to $1.5 billion; Ad Council expands search for new, nontraditional media venues
Industry elects Ad Council to lead the way in "Campaign for Freedom"
Ad Council marks 60th anniversary of making a difference through public service advertising