In the 1950s the only places in the country doing advertising worthy of mention were New York, and maybe, Chicago. The problem was Harry Jacobs lived in North Carolina.
Not content to create your typical, run-of-the-mill advertising and having no desire whatsoever to move to New York, Jacobs began creating award-winning ads up and down the southeastern seaboard.
Suddenly, it was no longer just New York doing the great work. It was New York, Charlotte, Atlanta and Richmond. For most this would have been life's high-water mark. For Jacobs, it was only the beginning. He began to recruit others who shared his high ideals. He was not timid about it. He created a gigantic recruiting poster that said, "To Hell With New York." He also organized the first Outside New York Creative Conference and started one of the first creative clubs in the country, complete with its own show.
Competing with New York was no longer a dream for Jacobs. It was a full-blown obsession. And Jacobs created not only award-winning ads, he created award-winning creative leaders. Mike Hughes, Jelly Helm, Nancy Vaughn, Mark Doyle, Jerry Torchia, Bill Westbrook, Hal Tench and Nina DiSesa all spent a good part of their formative years working for Jacobs. People who worked under Jacobs became creative directors at more than 20 different creative powerhouses including Wieden & Kennedy, Wells Rich Greene, Fallon, DDB and Chiat/Day.
The award-winning work and army of talent cultivated by Jacobs inevitably attracted advertisers who wanted something special ¿ advertisers who normally would never have considered an agency outside of New York. The Martin Agency, which billed only $5 million when Jacobs joined in 1977, has grown into one of the top creative agencies in the country and has stewarded the branding and marketing of such national and international clients as Coke, Hanes, Mercedes-Benz, Saab, Seiko, Olympus, PING, UPS and Wrangler, just to name a few.
The Wall Street Journal couldn't miss Jacobs¿s influence. With a full-page announcement, they honored him as one of the industry's "creative leaders." They also took him around the world to spread his creative gospel.
With and without the Journal, Jacobs has been a tireless promoter of creative thinking and exquisite execution, serving on numerous industry boards and panels and lecturing in five countries, 34 states, 66 cities and a dozen schools and universities.
Even in retirement, Jacobs continues to shine the spotlight on the Southeast. He was a founding board member of one of the top creative schools in the country, the Adcenter at Virginia Commonwealth University. He also serves on the board of advisors for the University of North Carolina School of Journalism and formerly served on the board of directors for the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Mass Communications and the board of overseers for the Corcoran College of Art and Design. He's been a trustee at both the Woodberry Forest School and St. Mary's College.
Jacobs is one of the few people in advertising to have been inducted into three different halls of fame. In 1986 he was named a charter member of the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame, along with Tom Wolfe and Roger Mudd. In 1990 he was named to the North Carolina Advertising Hall of Fame. And in 2001 he was inducted into the One Club's Creative Hall of Fame for "inspiring work that rose far above the banality of the advertising status quo of his day, for creating work that became an enduring part of our culture and for being a pretty terrific human being."
Now make that four.