James Young served the advertising world in several capacities, influencing the development and history of industry at each step.
In 1912 Young joined J. Walter Thompson as a copywriter, writing several memorable advertisements such as the "Curve of a Woman’s Arm." He quickly rose through the ranks to become a vice president and remained a senior influence on the affairs of the agency until 1964. One of his greatest contributions to J. Walter Thompson was in supporting and directing the agency’s international expansion efforts.
As an advertising teacher, Young had a tremendous impact. In 1931 he became a professor of business history and advertising at the University of Chicago’s school of business. He also educated students and practitioners about the fundamentals of advertising in his column for Advertising Age, which was eventually compiled and published as The Diary of an Ad Man. In 1963 he gave advice to the men and women of the advertising world in his book How to Become an Advertising Man.
Young made many contributions to the advertising industry as a whole. In late 1933 he studied the agency compensation system at the request of advertisers, agencies and the media. His conclusions, mainly that the commission system was an imperfect, yet preferable system, was published in a report entitled Advertising Agency Compensation. Young also presented the plan for a public-service program sponsored by the advertising industry. This idea later led to the creation of the War Advertising Council whose objective was to support government programs during the second world war. Young was elected chairman of the War Advertising in 1945. He presided over the evolution of the council into the Advertising Council at the end of 1945. Young was its first chairman, leading it during this transition and calling for greater support of the council by the industry.
Young received many honors and awards including the Advertising Man of the Year Award in 1946 and the Advertising Awards Gold Medal for "outstanding achievements of a lifetime" and most particularly for his notable contributions during the war.