Don Kraft

Don Kraft • Written 1993 and re-written in June 2009

Don Kraft

Don Kraft started his business career the day he graduated from the UW by opening a one-man advertising agency in Seattle’s University District. Through various mergers and acquisitions, he was an agency CEO for the next 45 years.

He was president of Kraft Advertising from 1948 until its merger with Honig-Cooper in 1954.  He was a vice president of Honig-Cooper until its Seattle office was acquired and became Kraft, Smith & Ehrig in 1959. He was president of that agency until it merged and became Evans/Kraft in 1984. At the time of his retirement in 1993, he was chairman of the parent company, then called EvansGroup.

Since his formal retirement, Kraft has been engaged in consulting and community work and was chairman emeritus of EvansGroup (now Publicis of the West.) He has been involved as board member and consultant with a number of Northwest companies.

In groping for how to approach a 96-year story, I came across another quote from R. W. Emerson. He said, “All history resolves itself (very easily) into the biographies of a few stout, earnest persons.” So today, I’ve decided to concentrate on just six stout-hearted, earnest persons as those responsible for building our traditions at Evans Kraft.

With most histories in the 20th century, all six were men, but you can be sure that when the next phase of our history is reported that it won’t be an all-male cast. The six men are C. V. White, ‘Bert’ Izzard, ‘Bill’ Horsley, Warren E. Kraft, Sr., David W. Evans and Trevor Evans. While their careers span nearly a century, you will find they all had a common dedication to client success, integrated marketing, ethics and public service.

Let’s go back to the beginning. On July 17, 1897, the steamer Portland arrived in Seattle. It carried a ton of gold and 68 rich men! The Yukon Gold Rush was on. Seattle, with a population of 70,000 was into boom times. C. V. White, then 20, had just opened White Advertising Bureau.& He was a dynamo and one of the first presidents of the forerunner of the Seattle Advertising Federation.

Every month he published ‘White’s Sayings’ which was a pioneer trade journal in the West. Every single day he wrote an entry into ‘Rusty Mike’s Diary’ with pithy observations about advertising. On January 10, 1911, for example, Rusty Mike said, “The fellow who builds his advertising on lies (like the one who starts a fire with coal oil) is apt to get singed.” And the next day he said, “Exaggerated ads are easier to write than truthful ones; but walking is better than skating on thin ice even if is slick.”

White's Sayings
White's Sayings published September 15, 1909.

In days after the turn of the century, Washington grew rapidly as did Seattle. In 1909, Seattle staged the Alaska-Yukon Pacific Exposition, a legitimate World’s Fair on the Univer4sity of Washington campus. It attracted 3.7 million paying customers and helped put Seattle on the map. By 1910, the population of Seattle had zoomed to 237,000.

By 1911, White had a staff of 30 and was prominently located at 4th and Pine/Westlake, kitty-corner from today’s Westalke Mall. White’s credo was, “Making advertising pay the advertiser.” (Sounds pretty much like ‘client comes first,’ doesn’t it?) White was also the turn-of-the-century version of Dennis miller, using ‘power buying’ techniques to package effective media programs to get exceptional bang for the client’s buck.

Suddenly, at age 34, White suffered an attack of appendicitis and died a week later. The next day the Seattle Times said, “C. V. White was the kind of citizen no city can afford to lose. He was among the leaders in every progressive movement.”

After Mr. White’s death, Bert Izzard, then 32, took over the active management of White Advertising Bureau. After two years he renamed it The Izzard Company that characterized itself as a Merchandising/Advertising Company and continued the theme of ‘Making it Pay the Advertiser.’ Bert Izzard deeply believed that ‘an advertising agency can only grow by making money for its customers.’ He was an early proponent of the Big Idea.

On the 4th of July, 1914, the 42-story Smith Tower opened. Touted as the tallest building west of the Mississippi, it would be the symbol of Seattle for nearly half a century.

Young Warren Kraft was then at Lincoln High School and already starting his advertising career with this: “For snappy cards signs and copy that sells, just call Kenwood 987.”

In 1916, Izzard moved to the snazzy new Times Building (the wedge-shaped building kitty-corner from today’s Westin Hotel) that also housed the entire Seattle Times operation. In 1917, Izzard hired 19-year-old Warren Kraft as a cub copywriter. He worked there for about a year before being called into the Army at the end of World War I. One of Izzard’s clients was War Bonds campaign. From his desk at Izzard, Warren could look out and see a sign in the window across the street for W. H. Horsley Advertising.

Young Bill Horsley had graduated from the UW, where he was an extremely popular yell king, and immediately started his own agency. This was merged into The Izzard Company in 1919 along with H. O. Stone, a veteran newspaper and PR man, who also joined the agency at that time.

The Izzard Company grew steadily in the Roaring Twenties after the arrival or Horsley and Stone. Its clients included The Carnation Company and its ‘milk from contented cows’, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, Washington State Fruit, the Seattle National Bank (forerunner of SeaFirst) and a product called Swastika Biscuits, which ultimately had to be repositioned.

In 1926, Seattle elected Beth Landes, the first woman mayor of any major American city. Also that year, Warren Kraft opened his own agency called Arnold-Kraft. Then 28, he had just returned to Seattle after four years with Botsford-Constantyne. First in Portland as their copy chief and then opening the San Francisco office of what ultimately became Botsford-Ketchum.

To announce the new agency, Kraft ran a newspaper ad that proclaimed: ‘It pays to advertise well. It pays to use agency service.’ He also paid a compliment in the ad to the ‘proved ability of Seattle’s outstanding agencies.’ First on the list was Izzard, followed by Botsford-Constantyne.

In 1927, a triumphant Charles Lindbergh was welcomed to Seattle by Mayor Landes, and Warren Kraft merged his agency into Honig-Cooper of San Francisco, then the largest western agency. He was to be an officer and director of Honig-Cooper for the next 32 years.

During the Depression of the 30s, most families and businesses suffered intensely. A shanty town called Hooverville sprang up just west of today’s Seattle Exhibition Center. But during the 30s, both The Izzard Company, with Bill Horsley providing incredible energy, and Warren Kraft’s Honig-Cooper fared well, primarily because of food clients. Both had parts of the Carnation account, with Izzard handling the fresh milk and ice cream and Honig-Cooper the Albers (cereal) division, which included the introduction of Friskies pet foods.

Horsley and Kraft were respectful competitors and both became industry and community leaders. In 1933, for example, Kraft was president and Horsley vice-president of the Advertising Agency Association. Also in 1933, Bert Izzard decided to retire from the agency business and became advertising manager for Carnation. He was now a client of both agencies!

In 1936, a Carnation cow named Daisy set a world record by producing 38,000 pounds of milk (50 quarts a day). As the press said, Carl Gockerell ‘presided at the udder’ while child star Jackie Cooper did the crowning honors. I got to go to the ceremony with my dad!

As time went on, Horsley and Kraft, along with George Weber and Fred Baker, were sometimes known as the Big Four of Seattle advertising. They had an unwritten gentlemen’s agreement under which they competed.

In 1939, The Izzard Company’s name was changed to Pacific National, denoting ‘an organization working nationally for the interests of Pacific Northwest clients.’

In 1940, young Trevor Evans left his writing job at KOMO Radio to become Kraft’s radio director at Honig-Cooper. After wartime service at the State Defense Council, Evans was hired by Horsley at Pacific National. Also in the 40s, Bill Horsley started Pacific Kitchens to give broader service to his now long list of commodity food accounts and such clients as Fisher Flouring Mills.

Meanwhile, in 1942, David W. Evans opened an agency in Salt Lake City bearing his name. To start with, he had no clients at all, but before long, because of his experience, reputation and community involvement, such companies as U&I Sugar and Norbest Turkeys had come to him and he was off and running.

During World War II, Victory Square, next to the Olympic Hotel, was the focal point in downtown Seattle among others. Young Bob Hope attracted thousands there to a bond rally. By 1948 the war was over and Victory Square was torn down.

In 1948 Boeing launched the post-war era with the Stratocrusier airliner and I graduated from the University of Washington and started a one-person agency in the University District. In 1950, my brother Warren joined me and we made extensive use of interns from the UW to fill out our staff, including Jack Ehrig, Bruce Baker and Cappy Ricks.

When Pacific National celebrated 50 years in business, included in its anniversary brochure was a detailed chart outlining Bill Horsley’s vision of integrated marketing services.

In 1951, Warren Kraft celebrated 25 years of his agency by presenting their view of client success through full agency service. And, a new medium, TV, had now entered the scene.

In 1954, the age of jet transport began with Boeing unveiling the prototype 707. The little Kraft Advertising Agency was now up to six employees and brother Warren and I decided to merge half our agency into Honig-Cooper and sell the balance to Cappy Ricks.

Also in 1954, Trevor Evans became president of Pacific National and Frank Horsley, who had joined the agency in 1947, became secretary. Trevor Evans was extremely active for his clients, in the profession and in the community. He was selected ‘Ad Man of the Year’, organized a promotion that generated a mail-in of over 100,000 apricot pits to a radio station in 3 days, AND would do almost anything to help sell his clients’ products.

In 1959, Jack Ehrig, Warren and I joined PR man Hugh Smith to buy the Seattle office of Honig-Cooper and form Kraft, Smith and Ehrig. Warren Sr. was its initial chairman. Four years later when dad retired, who should be on hand to congratulate him but his first boss and long-time friend Bert Izzard. In more of the small worlds department, when Bert was honored as a 50-year Rotarian, the presentation was made by then-Rotary-president Hugh Smith.

In 1963 now the largest agency in Utah and with offices in several markets, David Evans celebrated the agency’s 20th anniversary with his executive group. There was Glen Snarr, who was then the Chairman-Emeritus of EvansGroup with Buzz Capener who opened Evans’ Seattle office in 1955. Seattle was Evans first venture out of Utah.

By 1975, Pacific National was doing well under the leadership of Trevor Evans, Fred Sprague, Frank Horsley and Marge Stromberg. They were approached by David W. Evans and a merger was forged which created Evans/Pacific.

In 1976, Kraft Smith celebrated a 50th anniversary. The announcement ad that Warren Kraft had run in 1926 was featured and the agency selected its all-time favorite competitor, Trevor Evans, to be master of ceremonies.

By 1984, Evans was in eight markets and was one of the largest western-owned agencies. Chairman Glen Snarr and President Jon Johnson came to Seattle and proposed a merger with Kraft Smith, and thus, EvansKraft was born. The combined agency had 78 people and 27 million in capitalized billing. Frank Horsley was Chairman, I President/CEO and Lon LaFlamme EVP.

Between 1990 and 1992, EvansKraft acquired Mike Mogelgaard, Stimson-Clarke and Ehrig agencies, gaining (among others) talented people like Mogelgaard, Jim Clark and Jack Ehrig.