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 seventy 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.


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"
1942 - 1945 "Women in War Jobs," "Buy War Bonds" and "Loose Lips" campaigns created 
Smokey Bear created by Foote, Cone & Belding
1945 President Truman 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
Eleanor Roosevelt
1953 Ad Council sponsors broadcast of CARE
1957 Fund-raising for Red Cross campaigns
Red Cross
1958 Campaign for Salk polio vaccine begins
1961 Peace Corps launches 30-year campaign, "The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love"
1966 Robert Keim succeeds Theodore Repplier as Ad Council president
1972 UNCF launches "A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste" campaign
1973 "Crying Indian" wins two Clio awards
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"
1985 Vince & Larry, the crash-test dummies, encourage Americans to buckle up
1987 Ruth Wooden succeeds Robert Keim as Ad Council president
1988 First AIDS campaign begins
1995 Ad Council launches Commitment 2000 program addressing children's issues
1999 Peggy Conlon succeeds Ruth Wooden as Ad Council president
2000 Ad Council selected to manage groundbreaking $1 billion ONDCP Media Match Program
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
2005 Addressing the obesity crisis confronting the nation and its children, Ad Council launches its Coalition for Healthy Children 
Healthy Children
2007-2008 Donated media reaches $2 billion mark
2009 Utilizing the latest social media tools, Ad Council joins Twitter, complementing already established presences on Facebook and YouTube
2010 The Ad Council receives an Emmy Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences
2010 Jimmy Fallon hosts the Ad Council’s 57th Annual Public Service AwardDinner which raises an unprecedented $2.8 million dollars

Ad Council rereleases “I Am an American” PSA in honor of the 10th anniversary of 9/11


FWD campaign for the Horn of Africa reaches 15 million in one day on Twitter alone

2012 Ad Council celebrates 70th birthday

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