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October 1st, 2014

Laura Spaulding

Bozell Commercials Became a National Phenomenon 40 Years Ago

Award-winning Campaign Remembered

(OMAHA, Neb., Oct. 1, 2014) – More than four decades have passed since C.W. McCall first pulled his 18-wheeler into the Old Home Filler-Up an’ Keep-on-a-Truckin’ Café, but Bill Fries recalls the story behind the award-winning campaign as though it happened yesterday.

As senior vice-president and creative director at Bozell & Jacobs, which later became Bozell, Fries was the driving force behind the acclaimed TV commercials that in June of 1974 were voted the best advertising campaign in the nation by an international panel of judges for the Clio Awards. Now living in Ouray, Colorado, Fries was writer, creative director, voice talent and producer of the Old Home commercials, which became a phenomenon during the mid-1970s.

The series of 60-second commercials created for the Metz Baking Company chronicled the romance between a truck driver for Old Home named C.W. McCall and a gum-smacking truck-stop waitress called Mavis. The commercials traced their early infatuation at the Old Home Filler-Up an’ Keep-on-a-Truckin’ Café to a date at the drive-in movie with Mavis’s mother along as a chaperone.

Editor’s Note: 40 years ago, a series of commercials went “viral” as creative, humorous, storytelling, and a testament to a more relaxed style of advertising that sold product beyond any reasonable expectations. It launched long-running careers and became part of our culture. Please visit C.W., Mavis and the rest of the Old Home gang at http://bozell.com/work/old-home-bread/.

“As soon as the spots started to air, people began writing letters to the Metz Baking Company wanting to know more about C.W. McCall and Mavis and this little soap opera that was going on,” Fries reminisced. “It was just amazing. Fan clubs were springing up and people were calling into TV and radio stations wanting to know when the spots were going to air.”

The campaign’s popularity drew the attention of national media, including The Wall Street Journal, which reported, “C.W. and Mavis have become something of folk heroes in Metz’s territory, which encompasses Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska and Minnesota. Television stations report calls from viewers asking for replays on the commercials. A number of roadside diners have taken to calling themselves “Old Home, etc.” and waitresses are answering to the name of Mavis.”

The campaign also received critical success during the 1974 Clio Awards in New York where it was judged “The Best Overall U.S. Television Campaign for 1973.” “It beat out national campaigns of such corporate giants as Kodak, Xerox, Metropolitan Life and Eastern Airlines,” according to the Journal.

Fries recalled attending the Clio Awards and watching as the winners were announced in dozens of different categories. “I had no idea we were going to win anything,” Fries acknowledged. “We listened as all of the awards were presented, but our commercials were never mentioned. Finally, we got to the last award for the overall best TV campaign in the U.S. and suddenly the Old Home commercials were being shown and the crowd went berserk. The audience loved them and the room was filled with applause and laughter.

I sat there stunned not knowing what to do when Bozell & Jacobs was announced as the Grand Winner.”
In 2006, the Old Home campaign was recognized by the Omaha Federation of Advertising (OFA) as one of the top campaigns of the century. Recognized along with Fries were other account team members Galen Lillethorup, producer; Chip Davis, composer; and Burt Rodriquez, film production.

Lyrics from the commercials were rewritten by Fries for a record titled “The Old Home Fill-er-Up an’ Keep-on-a-Truckin’ Café,” which was used as a premium for Metz Bakery. It ended up selling 30,000 copies in a limited distribution, but it caught the attention of MGM Records in Nashville, which released the song nationally where it reached No. 10 on the country charts.

The success of that single led to a recording contract for Fries, who performed under the name C.W. McCall. His success as a recording artist landed him on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Hee Haw, and numerous other national TV appearances. His second album, Black Bear Road, included the single Convoy, which hit No. 1 on both the pop and country charts and inspired a movie of the same name. Since its release, more than 20 million copies of the single have been sold.

Prior to his work on the Old Home campaign, Fries penned TV campaigns for major clients including Storz Brewing Company and Union Pacific Railroad. “In 1969, it was the 100th anniversary of the Golden Spike, so I wrote the song ‘A Great Big Rolling Railroad’ that blew the CEO away,” Fries noted. “It was then that I discovered I could actually write a song.”

“It’s interesting to note that some of the clients that Bill was working on in the ‘70s, including Storz and Union Pacific, are still Bozell clients today,” observed David Moore, partner in charge, Creative, for Bozell. “Then, as now, telling an entertaining story with your brand at the center is the key to memorable, effective advertising.”

Fries worked at Bozell & Jacobs from 1961 to 1976, after spending 10 years as a staff artist at KMTV. Reflecting on his career as creative director, Fries added, “I miss those days so much. I spent a huge portion of my life with Bozell and that name means a lot to me. And I’m proud of all the attention we were able to focus on Omaha, and of all that happened to me while I was working there.”

About Bozell

Bozell is a full-service advertising and public relations agency specializing in advertising, digital marketing, technology and other creative solutions that produce results. We utilize SmartargetingTM and other insights to create winning marketing and sales strategies and build brand stories that are smart and compelling. We stand for doing right by our clients, employees and our community. For more information, visit Bozell.com.

February 17th, 2014

Laura Spaulding

What’s in a Title? Bozell Owners Take Their Titling Decision ‘Lightly’

Bozell, a full-service advertising and public relations agency, has named Kim Mickelsen as chief executive officer (CEO) and Robin Donovan as president in recognition  of their leadership, years of service, and above all their luck of the draw. Read More

February 12th, 2014

Andrea Groom

Bozell Receives Multiple Advertising Industry Awards

Creative marketing communications firm Bozell today announced the agency received multiple local industry awards for its advertising campaigns. Sponsored by the American Advertising Federation (AAF), the ADDY Awards are the advertising industry’s largest and most representative competition, recognizing creative excellence and the very best advertising worldwide. Read More

December 13th, 2013

Laura Spaulding

Bozell Wins Multiple Public Relations, Interactive and Design Awards

Creative marketing communications firm Bozell received multiple international and local industry awards this fall for public relations, interactive and design. Read More

September 26th, 2013

Andrea Groom

Bozell Grows Workforce In Creative And Brand Navigation

Bozell, a full-service advertising and public relations agency, announces the hires of two new employees. Read More

August 8th, 2013

Laura Spaulding

Bozell Earns National Women’s Business Certification

Bozell, a full-service advertising and public relations agency, earned national certification as a Women’s Business Enterprise by the Women’s Business Development Center – Chicago, a regional certifying partner of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Read More

June 17th, 2013

Tom Giitter

Bozell Announces New Senior Staff

Creative marketing communications firm Bozell today announced several new appointments of senior level team members. Read More

May 30th, 2013

Laura Spaulding

Bozell Announces Promotions

Creative marketing communications firm Bozell today announced the promotions Michelle Rierson to partner in charge of small business and Jen Toland to senior project manager. Read More

May 10th, 2013

bozell

Bozell Receives Multiple Advertising Industry Awards

Bozell-Intern-1Creative marketing communications firm Bozell today announced the agency received multiple international, regional and local industry awards for creative, advertising and public relations campaigns. Bozell was awarded the distinction of “Official Honoree” by the Webby Awards, the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet, for its “bozellintern.com” website. This prestigious distinction is awarded to the top 15 percent of all work entered and exhibits remarkable achievement. Read More

March 27th, 2013

Laura Spaulding

Scott Rowe to Speak to Creighton Students on April 6, 2013

Scott Rowe, partner in charge of digital marketing, will be speaking to Alpha Kappa Psi students at Creighton University on Saturday, April 6, 2013, about the agency business and his experience in digital marketing. Alpha Kappa Psi focuses on providing ethical leadership and professional development. Through educational programs, community service and a hands-on application of formal education, Alpha Kappa Psi students use the business skills they are taught in the classroom to acquire life skills such as the art of compromise, consensus building, project management, interviewing and networking. Read More