History

A Brief History of AAF

By the turn of the 19th Century, advertising had been recognized as an important and viable means of communication. The industrial movement gave rise to the need for product and service promotion and with this, the advertising profession was established. As the profession grew into an industry, practitioners became concerned with assuring high business standards. Then, as now, advertising professionals identified the need to join together to protect and promote their trade.

This idea led to the organization of professional advertising clubs founded on the principle of upholding high industry standards. Across the country, advertising professionals formed local organizations to achieve this objective.

By 1904, these local advertising clubs realized that to be effective they should join together. Accordingly, the local clubs in the west formed the Pacific Coast Advertising Men’s Association. A year later, the east coast clubs organized into the National Federation of Advertising Clubs. These two regional groups evolved to become the Advertising Association of the West (AAW) and the Advertising Federation of America (AFA).

Both associations worked to raise the standards of advertising through education and self-regulation. In the east, the AFA organized a national vigilance committee in 1911 and launched the “truth in advertising” movement, the forerunner to Better Business Bureaus. The AAW became involved in this movement a year later.

For many years the AAW and the AFA operated independently to represent industry interests. However, after the Second World War the East and West were brought closer through the advent of commercial air travel and advances in telecommunications. Accordingly, it became increasingly necessary for the AFA and AAW to coordinate activities and positions, particularly in dealing with the federal government.

For several years, the AFA and AAW worked cooperatively to promote and protect industry interests as pressure towards a merger mounted. In 1962, a joint convention was held and a commission was formed to discuss the issue of a merger. Five years later, in February of 1967, the Advertising Federation of America and the Advertising Association of the West joined forces creating the unifying voice for advertising…

AAF Membership