John P. Cunningham was the first living person to be elected to the Advertising Hall of Fame. He was a statesman and spokesman. His influence extended beyond his own agency, Cunningham & Walsh, to the industry through his service on various advertising association boards and committees and his tireless efforts to raise the standards of creativity and quality in advertising.
Cunningham’s advertising career began in 1919, when he joined Newell-Emmett, which in 1950 became Cunningham & Walsh. During his career he served as an artist, copywriter, vice president, executive vice president, president, chairman of the board and chairman of the executive committee. He retired from active management in 1961.
Cunningham’s contributions to the industry included serving as chairman of the Advertising Federation of America and the American Association of Advertising Agencies, director of the Advertising Research Foundation and trustee of the Committee for Economic Development. He was an instrumental figure in the merger that led to the American Advertising Federation.
In his efforts to raise the standards of creativity and quality in the industry, Cunningham made countless speeches across the country advancing ideas such as networks taking over their own programming and selling time as in the magazine concept and self-regulation achieving truthfulness and good taste in advertising.
During World War II, Cunningham was chairman of the advertising campaign to raise funds for the U.S.O.
For his own agency, Cunningham developed the campaign, "The Man from Cunningham & Walsh," which depicted agency research, account, copy, art and television men who spent a week a year working in the field of their clients, learning firsthand what happens at the point of sale.