YOU SHOULD KNOW: About The History Of Vancouver’s Very Own Don Draper Ad Man
by Stevie Wilson | One of Vancouver’s most important ad men in the 1950s and 60s was Mr. James Lovick, who one winter afternoon, without taking any cues from popular ensemble television shows, stripped his pants off during an agency meeting in Toronto and threw them out the window. This was, of course, to illustrate his point that the Toronto Dominion Bank should accept his agency’s offer to change their “pinstriped” image. By all accounts, his plan worked.
Lovick, like the fictitious Mr. Draper, was a great ad man, and could get away with these sorts of “good old days” escapades. He was even so sly as to not leave any photographs of himself for research purposes (the shot above is of one of his employees). Having experienced increasing success in the Vancouver advertising scene since the 1930’s, Lovick eventually opened up his own shop at 1178 West Pender in a building designed by the great, if forgotten, mid-century Vancouver architect Robert McKee. He also opened additional offices in Edmonton, Halifax, New York, and San Francisco. By 1958, James Lovick Ltd. was the largest Canadian ad agency, and it had some high-profile clients to prove it.
Companies like the B.C. Telephone Company, Super-Valu, and Kelly Douglas & Co.’s new coffee brand Nabob were all in a stable of accounts held tightly by Lovick and his associates. Lovick was additionally instrumental in bringing the 1962 Grey Cup to Canadian audiences, albeit after a lengthy dispute with the CBC about commercial-free viewing. The company was a powerhouse among the great agencies of the East Coast, with a West Coast flair that proved big things were happening over here. That is, until the big one was snatched away. The 1961 Sunday Sun reported that, regrettably, “the advertising agency business is notoriously gossipy” (so are newspapers), and that the federally chartered B.C. Telephone Company account had changed hands into those of the O’Brien Agency, an alleged favourite of Prime Minister John Diefenbaker.
What would become of Canada’s greatest ad agency? Despite recently securing campaigns for the RCAF, the end of the agency’s ten-year love affair with our province’s phone lines proved to be a sign of worse things to come. Lovick’s company, according to American reports, included 210 employees (including branches), and was slowly feeling the effects of its competitor’s growths and mergers. At this point, Lovick & Co.’s coverage had extended to the American and British markets with specialized areas for promotion, publicity, public relations, and – you guessed it – a special panel for “women’s promotions”.
In 1968, Trans-Canada Airline’s first customer to log a million air miles passed away, leaving behind a company that would ultimately not outlive him by much. Following a series of mergers that continued well into the 1990s, the remnants of Lovick Advertising are found in the New York-based worldwide agency BBDO. So the next time Don Draper makes the ladies swoon and forgets his kids at daycare (or something), remember: Jimmy Lovick once took his pants off in a room full of Toronto businessmen, and that’s real advertising.
Stevie Wilson is an historian masquerading as a writer. After serving as an editor for the UBC History Journal, she’s decided to branch out with a cryptic agenda: encouraging the people of Vancouver to take notice of their local history and heritage with You Should Know, a Scout column that aims to show you the things that you already see. Just nod your head and pretend you’re paying attention.