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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!

1941

James Webb Young makes "What action can be taken?" speech, which spurs formation of an advertising council

1942

Group is christened "War Advertising Council".

Loose Lips Sink Ships

1942 - 1945

"Rosie the Riveter," "Buy War Bonds" and "Loose Lips" campaigns created

Smokey the Bear - Only You Can Pevent Forest Fires

1944

Smokey Bear created by Foote, Cone & Belding

1945

President Roosevelt urges Ad Council to continue its work in peacetime; Ad Council begins work with National Safety Council

1946

Campaigns focus on atomic weapons, world trade, religious tolerance

1947

Theodore Repplier becomes Ad Council president

1950

Eleanor Roosevelt and General Eisenhower appear in anti-communism ads. Korea conflict restarts war bond campaign

1953

Ad Council sponsors broadcast of CARE

1957

Fund-raising for Red Cross campaigns

Fight Polio!

1958

Campaign for Salk polio vaccine begins

Peace Corps - We need someone with a good back, strong stomach, level head and a big heart.

1961

Peace Corps launches 30-year campaign, "The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love"

1966

Robert Keim succeeds Theodore Repplier as Ad Council president

UNCF - A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste

1972

UNCF launches "A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste" campaign

"Crying Indian"

1973

"Crying Indian" wins two Clio awards

McGruff the crime dog

1978

McGruff the crime dog takes first bite out of crime

1981

Drug abuse and alcoholism campaigns begin

1982

Nancy Reagan asks America to "Just Say No"

Vince & Larry the Crash Dummies

1985

Vince & Larry, the crash-test dummies, encourage Americans to buckle up

1987

Ruth Wooden succeeds Robert Keim as Ad Council president

Using it won't kill you, not using it might. Help stop AIDS. Use a condom.

1988

First AIDS campaign begins

1995

Ad Council launches Commitment 2000 program addressing children's issues

Peggy Conlon - Ad Council president

1999

Peggy Conlon succeeds Ruth Wooden as Ad Council president

2000

Ad Council selected to manage groundbreaking $1 billion ONDCP Media Match Program

2000-2001

Donated media soars to $1.5 billion; Ad Council expands search for new, nontraditional media venues

Campaign for Freedom - A young girl stands in front of an American flag stirring gently in the breeze

Sept. 2001

Industry elects Ad Council to lead the way in "Campaign for Freedom"

2002

Ad Council marks 60th anniversary of making a difference through public service advertising




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