J. Walter Thompson (JWT)


1878-, USA, London

JWT was founded in the USA in 1864 as Carlton and Smith, selling advertising space in religious journals. The firm was later purchased by James Walter Thompson, who had worked his way up from being a book-keeping clerk in the business, and re-named accordingly in 1878. A London sales office opened in London in 1899.

Under Thompson the innovation of placing advertisements in women's magazines was successfully developed and the company specialised in designing trade marks and packaging. Another new idea was the use of testimonial advertising, with photographic portraits of royalty, socialites and famous female film stars in advertisements for Pond¡¦s face cream and Lux soap.

A Research Department was opened in 1915 hiring professional academics, such as the founder of behavioural psychology John B Watson. JWT was the first agency to focus on in-depth market research for clients, combining its results with medical and scientific findings and the analysis of the buying habits of selected families on a 'Consumer Panel'.

In 1927, when General Motors Export Corporation became a client, offices were opened throughout Europe and in Africa, Asia, Australia, and Latin America. From the 1930s the company introduced its US clients to commercial radio advertising and the the sponsorship of programmes. The success of these formats was repeated on television from the 1950s. With the arrival of commercial television in Britain in 1955 JWT was the first UK agency to have its own casting department and the first to persuade top film and TV directors to make commercials. Soap

J. Walter Thompson became a public corporation in 1969 and in 1980 was reorganized to form a new holding company, JWT Group Inc., with J. Walter Thompson as the largest of a number of subsidiaries including advertising, public relations, and marketing firms which Thompson had acquired during the 1970s. In 1987 JWT became part of WPP Group and its media department merged with that of Ogilvy & Mather in 1997 to create MindShare. In 2005 the agency shortened its name to JWT. Today it has offices in 150 cities in 89 countries.

See: www.jwt.com

Archive content

Date range: 1920s-present


The JWT Archive at HAT comprises material relating to its UK advertising activities.
  • Over 600 guardbooks containing advertising proofs, point of sale material, press cuttings and TV scripts1920s-1990s.
  • Over 500 client files containing research, correspondence and business records 1938-1971.
  •  JWT London annual reports, yearbooks and in-house publications.
For more details on the JWT guardbooks click here

The John Treasure Collection includes JWT published reports and unpublished research manuscripts from John Treasure¡¦s time as Chairman of JWT London 1967-1974. John Treasure (1924-2004) is particularly remembered for his achievements in integrating consumer research and advertising.

The George Butler Archive includes material relating to George Butler¡¦s role as JWT art director 1932-1962.

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