Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Detroit's Own Mad Men

Madison Avenue wasn't the only place where independent ad agencies thrived back in the day – Detroit had its own version of Mad Men in the eponymous Ross Roy agency.

Ross Roy, a portrait. Actually, the portrait.

Ross Roy, who started as an automobile salesman, founded his agency in 1926 in Detroit with the Dodge Brothers Corp. as the major client.  When Dodge was acquired by Chrysler in 1927 the Ross Roy sales approach was extended to all Chrysler Corp dealers, and the agency grew with Chrysler through the 1930s and 40s specializing in training, merchandising and production of education films. During World War II it more than doubled in size producing these materials Chrysler as part of the war effort.

After the war the Ross Roy agency thrived with Chrysler as their main client, but also taking on clients such as American Steel Wool Manufacturing Co., Dana Perfume, Esquire socks, and Lake Central Airlines.  As a fan of Mad Men it's amusing to see how these types of businesses have also appeared as clients of Sterling Cooper/Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

Ross Roy Inc. occupied offices right on East Jefferson in downtown Detroit at Joseph Campau, directly across the street from Garden Court Apartments and Doctor's Hospital (or as we have known it, Staples).

Ross Roy Inc., once upon a time.

Ross Roy Inc. continued to grow and acquire other independent agencies in the 50s, 60s and 70s and by 1980 had billings of $191 million annually. In the late 80s they moved their offices to Bloomfield Hills and by the time they were acquired by Omnicom Group, the parent company of BBDO, they were one of the largest independent shops in the U.S.  The Ross Roy name disappeared in 2000.

Ross Roy himself passed away in 1983 at the age of 85 (so he would have been about Bert Cooper's age in the 60s).  Today, the man is a member of the pantheon of legendary Detroit businessmen.

Here at Hugh we've managed to acquire some of Ross Roy's personal effects from his estate that, not coincidentally, are perfect accessories for the Mad Man in you – an assortment of vintage cufflinks and tie bars, and a rather stellar silverplate ice bucket.


They make their debut at the store Saturday at our Mad Men Pre-Party, so be sure and stop by. Not only can you own a piece of Detroit history, you can own something from a real Mad Man.