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Omaha Advertising History The 1950’s and 60s

Like other cities across the country, Omahans had a lot of catching up to do and plenty of Victory bonds ready for redemption. The only worry was whether the post-war demand that started in the late 1940s, would carry through the 50s.

Omaha TV stations WOW, KMTV, KETV pooled equipment to cover FCC hearings at which 120 public witnesses testified (1963).
Omaha TV stations WOW, KMTV, KETV pooled equipment to cover FCC hearings at which 120 public witnesses testified (1963).

With TV emerging, advertisers had a whole new medium through which to sell their goods and services. On the national scene, Kenyon & Eckhardt, which would later merge with Omaha’s own Bozell & Jacobs, made Lincoln-Mercury synonymous with the Ed Sullivan Show. Locally, Bozell & Jacobs lined up Arthur Godfrey as Mutual of Omaha’s pitchman. B&J also won the rights to handle the national TV advertising program for Serta, a countrywide association of mattress manufacturers.

Welcome sign hanging above the Omaha Stockyards Bridge.
Welcome sign hanging above the Omaha Stockyards Bridge.

As the 1960s began and memories of the war faded a bit, materialism was on the rise. Advertising in the 60s was considered a glamorous business and women became more prominent players. Omaha in the 1960s was a center of agriculture. The city boasted of the world’s largest stockyard processing center at its own Omaha Stockyards.

 

In 1962, Mutual of Omaha launched a new wildlife/nature, color television program named “Wild Kingdom” and scored a huge hit with the U.S. viewing audience. The show continued on network television throughout the rest of the decade and, later, found an even larger audience as a syndicated program.

Joe Baker goes to Washington.
Joe Baker goes to Washington.

The 50s and 60s were a time of more organization and structure of advertising affairs. In 1955, the Omaha Ad club joined the Advertising Federation of America . The same year, Omaha ad clubbers joined with colleagues from Colorado, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri to discus the formation of an AFA district. This district group met for the first time formally the next year in Omaha’s Paxton Hotel. Omaha Rich Galley was duly elected the first district governor.

Omaha ad club leaders were also instrumental in bring together the rival Advertising Federation of American and the Ad Federation, which operated west of the Continental Divide. Joe H. Baker, who served as 9th district governor in 1962-63 played an active role in bringing the two factions together and creating a united American Advertising Federation. Interesting enough, Mutual of Omaha started to sell group insurance to local ad club members across the country, right about the time the AFA became the AAF.

Shaping the industry and its voice wasn’t all that concerned advertising professionals of the 50s and 1960s. They also cared about advertising education – and they did something historic to improve it. Now conducted by many ad clubs nationwide, Meet the Pros actually got its start in Omaha on March 26, 1963.  Today, Meet the Pros, with its programming, agency work-site visits, and portfolio reviews attracts hundreds of college students from several Midwestern states.

In addition to the annual Meet the Pros, AAF Omaha supports a scholarship program through two foundations – each year typically awarding five to eight scholarships of $500, $1000 and $1500 each year to students who demonstrate academic success, community involvement and AAF participation.

Tickets to the Omaha Ad Club Follies hosted on December 27, 1966.
Tickets to the Omaha Ad Club Follies hosted on December 27, 1966.

Many Omaha advertising agencies got their start in the 1960’s. Smith Kroeger (formerly SKAR Advertising) a full-service integrated advertising agency in Omaha opened its doors in 1962.  A premier full-service agency, Smith Kroeger has expertise in the retail, financial, energy, health care and nonprofit sectors. Founded in 1962, Swanson Russell is a Nebraska based marketing communications firm with offices in Lincoln and Omaha. In addition to working with local and regional clients, the full-service agency is nationally recognized for expertise in agriculture, health care, outdoor recreation, construction and the green industry.

Article submitted by: Teri Hamburger with information collected for OFA’s (now AAF Omaha) 100th Year Anniversary in 2006 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. AAF Omaha past presidents Lori Meier and Cris Hay-Merchant along with a team of volunteers spent countless hours researching the federation’s history.

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