Leo Bozell (1886-1946)
Morris Jacobs (1895-1987)
Their last names are synonymous with advertising excellence. Leo Bozell and Morris Jacobs.
The agency they founded in Omaha almost 100 years ago – Bozell & Jacobs – grew to become one of the largest in the world.
What’s even more remarkable? “There was never a formal decision to start the agency. Morris Jacobs said, ‘We just sort of drifted into it,’” says David Moore, Bozell’s creative director.
At the time, Jacobs was working nights as a police reporter for the Bee-News in Omaha. Bozell, a veteran of World War I, was serving as executive secretary of the Omaha Real Estate Board. The two had become friends years earlier while working for the Omaha Daily News – Morris as a business reporter, Leo as his editor.
“They realized that they couldn’t just report the news, they could shape the news,” Moore says.
Initially, they juggled agency work around their full-time jobs. Two years later, in 1923, Bozell & Jacobs became their prime focus.
“Bozell & Jacobs built their business on the energy business. Nebraska Power was their first client. The success they had led to getting other energy companies in other cities and states,” Moore says.
By the end of the 1930’s, despite the Great Depression, Bozell & Jacobs had opened offices in Chicago, Indianapolis and Houston. In 1948, two years after the death of Leo Bozell, the agency established offices in New York City and Washington D.C.
“That gave them that place on the national stage,” Moore says.
Jacobs, who died in 1987, retired in the late 1960’s. His son-in-law, Chuck Peebler, assumed control of the agency, moved headquarters to New York City and launched an era of acquisition and expansion. By 1998, Bozell & Jacobs was among the eight largest ad agencies in the world with offices in 51 countries, acclaimed for its “milk moustache” and “Pork, the Other White Meat”campaigns.Locally, Bozell & Jacobs has had a profound impact with a long list of iconic clients, including First National Bank, Mutual of Omaha and Union Pacific.
“Bozell & Jacobs was instrumental in bringing The College World Series to Omaha. Boys Town is an internationally-recognized name because of the promotional work Bozell & Jacobs did here in Omaha.”
In 2001, the Omaha office bought itself back from holding company Interpublic Group and the agency – now called Bozell – become Omaha-based and independent again.
“I think if Leo and Morris saw the work that Bozell was doing today, they’d be very proud. They’d say – yes, you guys are doing it right.”
That extends to the agency’s focus on charitable works.
“Morris Jacobs was fond of saying, ‘We must pay rent for our space on Earth.’ We take that to heart.”
2017 Business Hall of Fame Honorees