The history of advertising in Cincinnati, and the history of the Advertising Club of Cincinnati, is sometimes hard to distinguish.

The city is home to Procter & Gamble, the largest commercial advertiser in the world. Home to dozens of branding firms, advertising agencies, printers, billboard companies, Internet companies and digital innovators.

The concept of a Cincinnati organization for advertising executives all began with a 34-year-old, one Smith B. Quayle. The ad manager at the Cincinnati Free Press, Quayle gathered four kindred spirits — Charles E. Bennett of the Cincinnati Times Star, W.A. Lewis of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Harry J. Haarmeyer of the Cincinnati Post and R. H. Hart of the Commercial Tribune — to discuss his vision of "an organization of advertising men." (Quayle would later found the National Advertising Club, now the American Advertising Federation.)

"The object of the meeting," founder Quayle wrote in 1904, "was to organize Cincinnati advertising men to work together for better conditions in advertising."

The first general meeting of the club — originally called the Five Points Club (after its five originators) — was held on January 27, 1904 at Burnet House. The historic hotel, which stood at the corner of Third and Vine, served as the first home to club meetings.

Unlike many similar organizations across the United States, the Advertising Club of Cincinnati has remained in continuous operation since its founding. Early records show meetings and events held at the Majestic Café, Odd Fellows Temple, Coney Island, the Gibson House, Palace Hotel, Clifton Golf Club, Chester Park, Grand Hotel, and the Munro Hotel in the earliest years. Later, there would be gatherings at the Cincinnati Club, the "new" Union Terminal, the "new" Netherland Plaza, the Beverly Hills Supper Club, and of course, more recently, the Terrace Hilton, the Quality Inn Riverview, the Westin and Gregory Centre, to name a few.

The club's first committee was the Entertainment and Initiation Committee, which decided at its first meeting to provide members with free cigars from club funds. It was in 1905 that the club founded the Retail Merchants Association. In 1910, the Club hosted the third national convention of what is known today as the American Advertising Federation (AAF).

It was in 1919 that club president Ned Hastings — who had come to Cincinnati in 1916 as manager of Keith's Vaudeville Theater and later became public relations director for the Zoological Gardens — applauded the passing of the time when advertising "press agents" were associated with trickery and believed that, at last, the advertising profession had taken on dignity. So it was that the Ad Club formed a Vigilance Committee that would, in the Roaring Twenties, become the Cincinnati Better Business Bureau.

On January 9, 1929, at the club's Silver Anniversary celebration at the Hotel Gibson, Smith Quayle commented: "In the first 25 years of the 20th century, the automobile, the telephone, airplane, cinema, radio, far-flung highways, ethics in business and advertising as an economic factor, have all developed within the memory of men not yet old. "

1931 was the year that Advance, the club's publication, was launched. The pages of those early issues describe how the club played a key role in promoting Cincinnati as a vacation destination and as a convention center.

In January 1937, the annual President's Ball was cancelled because of the Big Flood. That year, WLW radio broadcast a series of talks on advertising featuring ad club members.

In 1954, the club celebrated its 50th anniversary at the Sheraton-Gibson Roof Garden with dinner and dancing and an address by none-other-than television legend Ed Sullivan. Also at the event was Betty Furness — the live TV celebrity demonstrator for Westinghouse. On that occasion, club president Harry Ewry observed: "The Golden Anniversary celebration was not only in commemoration of the group's work in the last half century but to provide for the drive and civic recognition for the next 50 years." According to the next day's Enquirer, that 50th event was the second largest meeting in Ad Club history — with more than 750 people present.

In the 1960s, the local United Appeal Campaign was a major annual civic project for the Ad Club. In 1961, the Club spearheaded an Advertising Week with a campaign themed, "Advertising Creates More Jobs, Better Living, A Stronger America."

Through the years, there were more meetings, more parties, more programs, a parade float, and more recognition. In 1975, the Ad Club joined with the Art Directors and the Cincinnati Industrial Advertisers for Cincinnati Communications Week, culminating with a joint creative awards competition.

In 1976, Advance became a slick new magazine with four-color printing on coated stock. Also in 1976, Cincinnati Ad 2 was founded — in a year when Ad Club president Bob Salt and immediate past president Marilyn Smith were both under 30 and, therefore, were eligible to belong to both clubs.

It was during this phase of the Ad Club's history that summer "stags" were replaced by golf outings. Meetings were held at the Quality Inn Riverview for its free parking. And the Clio Awards Show drew crowds to the Beverly Hills Supper Club. In the 1970s, the club changed its name — from the Advertisers Club of Cincinnati to the Advertising Club of Cincinnati.

In 1978, the organization held its first Media & Services Auction. The event took place at the Bankers Club and proceeds benefited WCET's Tower Power project.

1979 slipped by without a 75th anniversary celebration. The only acknowledgement was a mention in Advance magazine. So, under Steve Cooper's presidency, on January 27, 1984, the Advertising Club of Cincinnati celebrated its 80th anniversary in grand style with a black-tie-optional gala at the Netherland Plaza's Hall of Mirrors. 420 guests included 17 past presidents and celebrities such as Nick and Nina Clooney, Bob Braun, Reggie Williams, Al and Wanda Lewis, and many more. Ad 2 hosted an exhibit of Cincinnati advertising history with vintage ads and Ad Club mementoes. The crowd danced to big band sounds and enjoyed videotaped happy birthday messages from the likes of Bounty Towels' Rosie, Charmin's Mr. Whipple, and Cincinnati Bengals' No. 80 Chris Collinsworth.

In the 20 years since that event, there have been many accomplishments, many historical moments:

The Advertising Club of Cincinnati was recognized as AAF Club of the Year in 1987 and again in 1991. Cincinnati hosted AAF 5th District Conferences and District 5 finals of the National Student Advertising Competition on multiple occasions. Its world-renowned guest speaker list includes names such as Jerry Della Femina, David Bell, David Martin, and Hal Riney to name a few.

As the Advertising Club of Cincinnati prepares for a new century, the club and its members look to contribute to the creative horizon that lies ahead.