MELDRUM AND FEWSMITH - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
MELDRUM AND FEWSMITH, creator of influential and memorable advertising, was founded in 1930 by Andrew B. Meldrum, a copywriter, and Joseph Fewsmith, an account executive, who were partners for nearly 40 years in Philadelphia, then in Toledo, and then as Sweeney & James in Cleveland before forming their own firm. At Sweeney & James in the 1920s, Fewsmith created the famous "Somewhere West of Laramie" ads for the JORDAN MOTOR CAR CO.; a campaign generally thought to be the first to use sex appeal to sell cars. In 1930 the new Meldrum and Fewsmith agency quickly acquired the REPUBLIC STEEL CORP. as a client, hiring MARGARET BOURKE-WHITE† to take photographs for the early Republic ads. Concentrating on newer companies that were trying to establish an identity, the firm designed the red jockey-cap logo for Carling's Red Cap Ale, and created a national market for GLIDDEN COATINGS & RESINS DIV. (IMPERIAL CHEMICAL INDUSTRIES) paints, whose business they obtained in 1934.
Meldrum and Fewsmith was one of the first agencies to offer market research in the 1950s; in 1960, 6 million readers found half-page paint chips in the Saturday Evening Post, an early magazine-insertion mass sampling. Meldrum and Fewsmith also created ads for BONNE BELL, INC.'s Ten-O-Six Lotion, giving it national exposure. The agency offered clients complete communication services, including advertising, public-relations, financial, and employee communications. Meldrum and Fewsmith has been honored with hundreds of advertising industry awards locally, nationally, and internationally. Although the company had offices in Columbus, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Jersey, and Kentucky, Cleveland would remain its headquarters.
Following the 1992 merger with Fairlawn advertising agency Hesselbart & Mitten/Arocom, Meldrum and Fewsmith's staff grew to nearly 175 workers. By 1995 the agency employed about 150 in the Cleveland area. With the merger, Meldrum and Fewsmith's total billings were $120 million. The following year, however, Meldrum and Fewsmith was named the agency of record for OfficeMax, bringing a $30 million account previously handled by the Ross Roy agency in Detroit. Also that year, Meldrum and Fewsmith acquired the LTV CORP., which had ended the agency's long relationship with Republic after LTV purchased the Cleveland steel maker in 1984. Other notable clients at this time included, Mr. Coffee (see NORTH AMERICAN SYSTEMS, INC.), Rubbermaid, and Royal Manufacturing's Dirt Devil. Despite these impressive gains, Meldrum and Fewsmith also lost some accounts, including, most notably, Glidden owned ICI Paints. In 1994, Meldrum and Fewsmith was the only Cleveland shop named to the Advertising Age top 100 list of ad agencies.
In March 1997, executives of Meldrum and, Fewsmith announced they would be merging with the Toronto-based Wolf Group. Although the managers of the Cleveland office would still maintain control over operations in the city, the merger proved to a rocky one. At the time of the acquisition, the new agency had total billings of nearly $200 million. Meldrum and Fewsmith's billings made up approximately $126.5 million of that figure. In 1998, Jerry Pryss became president of the newly renamed Wolf, Meldrum, and Fewsmith, after the agency lost the Rubbermaid and Mr. Coffee accounts in the previous year. Clients continued to leave and by the time the agency changed its name to the Wolf Group in 1999, total billings in Cleveland dropped nearly 20 percent and the office had one-third fewer employees than before the merger. In 2002, all of the Wolf Group's offices had total billings of $325 million, making it number 54 on the ranking of U.S. agencies compiled by Advertising Age. By 2004, however, it soon became clear to the executives at Wolf Group that economic pressures stemming from an overaggressive acquisition campaign were too great to continue operations and the agency was forced to sell or close many of its offices. The Cleveland office remained open until April, when three executives purchased the agency to begin operations as an independent shop. Called Melamed Riley, the agency was headed by president Sarah Melamed, executive creative director Rick Riley, and chief financial officer Chuck Hurley. The new agency had 35 employess and could count Royal Appliance's Dirt Devil among its clients.