The death last year of J. Wayne Cranford marked the end of an era in the history of advertising agencies in Arkansas. Founded in 1961, the Cranford Johnson Agency was the largest in the state, offering advertising, marketing, and public relations services throughout the state and much of the southwest.
Cranford inspired others to go into advertising, just as he must have drawn inspiration from the pioneering ad men before him. Though Little Rock and Arkansas were small markets, the state has produced a number of highly successful advertising agencies.
Though several agencies claim to be the oldest in America, professional advertising is often dated to 1841 when Volney B. Palmer opened an agency in Philadelphia. The J. Walter Thompson Company of New York, created in 1878, is the oldest agency in continuous service in the U.S.
Advertising took off following the Civil War, with advertisements beginning to appear in the growing number of magazines as well as newspapers.
The arrival of the automobile age in the 1920s, along with novelty advertising such as those painted on barn roofs, helped birth the billboard industry. The coming of the radio after World War I opened a whole new realm of advertising. Likewise, the growing availability of television after World War II resulted in advertising permeating life in America as never before. The most recent revolution in advertising has been the advent of the Internet in the 1990s.
The first advertising agency in Arkansas was…