Frank Campbell, and fellow Hall of Fame inductee Henry Ewald (1996), founded their eponymous Detroit-based advertising agency in 1911. Their agency, Campbell-Ewald, would go on to become the largest automotive advertising agency in America.
For Campbell, founding an advertising agency was a natural extension of his career. In the 1890’s he was advertising manager for a Pontiac, Michigan newspaper – the Pontiac Press Gazette. From there, he became the advertising manager of Detroit’s Aerocar Motor Car Company. When Aerocar shut its doors, Campbell struck out on his own, forming the Campbell Advertising Service in 1907. It was here that the seeds that would become Campbell-Ewald were sown.
Campbell and Ewald first met when Mr. Ewald was the advertising manager for the D&C Lines…the Detroit and Cleveland Navigation Company. At the time, Campbell was the ad manager at Aerocar. To demonstrate size of a new D&C ship, a new Aerocar, complete with four passengers wearing hats, was driven through a section of the ship’s massive smoke stack. The resulting media coverage created significant media exposure for both Aerocar and D&C.
Emboldened by success, and motivated by the impending failure of Aerocar, Campbell left to form the Campbell Advertising Service. His agency’s first client was the Hyatt Roller Bearing Company, a major supplier to the industry, run by a young president named Alfred P. Sloan. Years later, Mr. Sloan, by then President and Chairman of General Motors, would re-appear to play a very important role in the future of Mr. Campbell and Mr. Ewald.
It would be four years before Frank Campbell and Henry Ewald would merge their talents to open the Campbell-Ewald Company. Chartered by the State of Michigan on February 2, 1911, Campbell was named president and Ewald, secretary of the firm. There were six employees plus the accounts that Campbell brought from his former agency, including Hyatt Roller Bearings. The auto industry was their target, as evidenced by an early agency ad: “We care not who makes the nation’s cars, if we may write and place the nation’s advertising”.
Success came quickly, with Hudson Motor Car Company and Flanders Electric Cars soon joining the roster. Soon branch offices were opened in New York and Saginaw, Michigan… but the partnership was not to endure.
In 1917 Frank Campbell sold his stock, resigning from the firm to go to France with the YMCA, volunteering to help the victims of the First World War. With the end of the War, Campbell returned to Detroit to dabble briefly in the advertising business, but there were always more adventurous paths to follow, including his interest in capturing live rattlesnakes.
Frank Campbell died in 1951, at the age of 72, crushed by a 2,000 pound boulder while hunting for agate stones in Oregon.