After 150 years of iconic ads, agency eyes innovation

If you ever thought you'd love to be an Oscar Mayer wiener, or if you just remember the jingle fondly, you can thank ad agency J. Walter Thompson, reports CBS News contributor Lee Woodruff.

For 150 years, the company has been creating slogans and writing jingles that stick in your head, from those of Toys"R"Us to the Marines.

"It's a challenge, because we are in a very competitive business. Some people would say a cutthroat business. And our business is obsessed with what's new," J. Walter Thompson chairman and CEO Bob Jeffrey said. "Because frankly, clients don't care so much about the history, what they want to know is, are you committed to innovation? Are you committed to experimentation?"

Jeffrey said ads are like uninvited guests, so commercials have to have some element of entertainment.

Successful ads not only sells products, they can bring change to the way people live. J. Walter Thompson helped invent the grilled cheese sandwich as part of a campaign for their client Kraft. They're behind those measurement lines on a stick of butter or margarine. And the notion that an engagement ring should cost two months' salary? You can pin that one on Thompson too.

"I think the thing with J. Walter Thompson is we're great at pop culture. We invented celebrity advertising way before Kim Kardashian," Jeffrey said. "We had Liz Taylor and Lux soap."

He said J. Walter Thompson was not only the first agency to have a female creative director, but also the first to use sex appeal in advertising in an ad for Woodbury Soap.

"And the line was something like, 'A skin that's soft to touch,'" Jeffrey said. "And believe it or not, in that time frame, that was considered very, very sexy."

He said because in that era, few were touching, or "talking about touching."

For many people, everything they know about the ad business comes from "Mad Men," something Jeffrey said is actually helpful.

"Well, I think 'Mad Men' has been great, because before 'Mad Men,' everybody wanted to work on Wall Street. After 'Mad Men,' people want to work in the ad business again, 'cause they think it's glamorous," Jeffrey said. "They think it's fun. They think it's sexy. And they think it's creative. So it's been, I think, terrific for recruitment."

And having young people involved is important, Jeffrey said, as advertising increasingly migrates from television and print to online and social media.

"I think that's the amazing thing about what's happening now is, again, from a consumer point of view, they're not just receiving creativity, they're actually creators of the content," Jeffery said. "Now, when clients talk about what they're looking for with video, they're like, 'Oh. We want an ice bucket challenge idea.' It's become almost a benchmark now for how to evaluate social media."

But he doesn't think it's a fair benchmark.

"I think it's an aspiration," Jeffery said. "Well look, every situation is different. But I think what everybody, you know, realizes now is that it's really about creating content that's shareable."

Shareable -- just like a jingle you can't get out of your head.