The American Advertising Federation Omaha (AAF Omaha) was founded during a time in American history that spawned ideas and creativity. On May 28, 1906, to be exact – when three men waiting out a sudden rainstorm under an awning of Omaha’s downtown Brandeis Store, they agreed that they should “meet together more often.” Soon after that conversation, the Omaha Ad Club was born. This was the time in American history that spawned ideas and creativity. It was the dawn of a new century, a time in American history called the Age of Optimism, the Age of Confidence, and even the Cocksure era.
Without Charles Black, Bob Manley, and Jack Weaver there might be no AAF Omaha. The three are credited with the “rainstorm brainstorm” in 1906 that unofficially launched the formation of the Omaha Ad Club. Documents dating back to AAF Omaha’s origins show that Black, owner of Black the Hatter, served as the ad club’s first president from 1906 to 1908. Manley, employed by J.L. Brandeis & Sons, followed in the role in 1909. Omaha at the time was a bit of a Midwestern metropolis, with a rapidly increasing populace. As the city passed the 100,000-population mark, civic leaders were busy raising funds for a new city auditorium and crop values were on the rise. The advertising scene was a little less vibrant. In 1906, only one newspaper, a handful of magazines and handbills and posters dotted the adscape. The Gus A. Renze Company took credit for the most colorful and eye-catching signs (Renze Display is celebrating their 125th anniversary this year). Ad agencies weren’t in business yet. Instead, individuals bought newspaper space and resold it.
Early on, the Omaha ad club got involved with national activity. Our three original founders were likely instrumental in bringing the 1910 Associated Advertising Clubs of America convention to Omaha. The local ad club merged with Ad-Sell Club in 1919 to broaden its membership. At this time ad club pulled itself up by its bootstraps, so did Omaha. The multi-story Brandeis store was built, a brand-new YMCA, the Old Market, and the Stockyards. Building by building, business by business, the city and its economy matured.
Throughout the past two months, it has been inspiring to watch our members and the Omaha advertising community’s resilience and creativity as we make changes and pivot in new directions. Even if we are unable to physically gather, our mission remains constant:
With more than 325 professional and student members,
the American Advertising Federation Omaha (AAF Omaha)
is the unifying voice for advertising in the Omaha/Council
Bluffs metropolitan area. AAF Omaha offers an organization
to educate, inspire, and bring an inclusive sense of community
to the advertising professionals of Omaha so that we, and
future generations, can continue to do the work we love.
Your AAF Omaha Officers, Board of Directors and Committee Members are working hard to bring relevant virtual educational opportunities to our members, students and the community to continue our mission and commitment to bring value to our members during this difficult time in our history. Right now, we may not be able to “meet together more often” but we have found a virtual way to stay connected with our members.
AAF Omaha is up for the challenge and committed to our members, sponsors, and the Omaha community. AAF Omaha has been in existence for 114 years advocating for the rights of advertisers through grassroots efforts. We will continue to roll out new programs and content as we navigate this new normal. We cannot predict when the global pandemic will pass, but we take comfort in knowing that gathering for live experiences is a staple of our society and industry. We will meet again in person when the time is right.
Today our membership support, volunteers and sponsors will allow AAF Omaha to remain strong for many years to come.
Over the next several issues of AdMuse we will continue to share AAF Omaha history – the “then and now” of our organization. In the meantime, on May 28th let’s wish AAF Omaha a Happy Anniversary.
Article submitted by: Teri Hamburger with thanks to Larry McNichols, whose “Brief History of the Omaha Federation of Advertising” provided much of the historical information in this article. McNichols played an active role in the Omaha area advertising industry throughout the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s. McNichols, who headed Century III Advertising, Inc., also served as OFA President in 1975-76, AAF 9th District Governor in 1980-81 and is an active AAF Omaha lifetime member. McNichols had the opportunity to interview one of the federation’s founders, Bob Manley. We have no photo of Bob Manley available in our AAF Omaha files.