William Marsteller began his career at the Champaign News-Gazette in Illinois. After working for the Chicago Daily News, the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company and the Edward Valve Company, Marsteller joined the Pittsburgh Equitable Meter Company. As advertising manager, he devised a new name, the Rockwell Manufacturing Company, and rose to become a vice president.
At Rockwell, Marsteller emphasized the importance of the market-research department, which was a fairly new function in the industrial field. The idea of creating a small market-research firm for industrial companies led him to Gebhardt & Brockson, an advertising agency that he purchased. Marsteller incorporated a public relations operation into his business, which aided the growth of his company. The agency, primarily an industrial one, expanded to purchase Richard & Company in 1955 before moving into corporate public relations and consumer advertising. Purchasing the Zlowe Company helped the agency in its expansion into consumer industries and broadened the scope of the agency’s business. Marsteller worked tirelessly to build a successful advertising agency and public relations firm whose beginnings were modest but accomplishments great.
Under his leadership, Burson-Marsteller worked with many universities to educate and encourage students to join the world of advertising. The University of Southern California, Northwestern, Syracuse and Florida University are but a handful of colleges that received significant funds from the agency. Marsteller also contributed to the James Webb Young Fund and to Barnard College.