Saturday, July 4, 2009

“We make money the old-fashioned way. We EARN it”

The old Smith Barney ads featuring actor John Houseman (famous as the law professor in the film and tv series The Paper Chase) featured the famous line: "We make money the old-fashioned way. We earn it."

Smith Barney tried to continue the memorable campaign after Houseman's death, but it just didn't have the same authority.
Smith Barney & Co. was formed in 1938 through the merger of Carles D. Barney & Co., founded in 1873, and Edward B. Smith & Co., founded in 1892. In the late 1980's the retail brokerage firm Smith Barney was owned by Primerica Financial Services. Sandy Weill's company Commercial Credit purchased Primerica in 1988, for $1.5 billion. In 1992, Weill paid $722 million to buy a 27 percent share of Travelers Insurance. By the end of 1993, the merged company was known as Travelers Group Inc., and was wholly owned by Weill. In September 1997, Travelers acquired Salomon Inc., (parent company of Salomon Brothers Inc.) for over $9 billion in stock, and merged it with its own investment arm to create Salomon Smith Barney.

In April 1998 Travelers Group announced an agreement to undertake a $76 billion merger between Travelers and Citicorp, creating the largest single financial services company in the world. It now has over one trillion US dollars in assets.

Return of the Smith Barney name
The firm's brand name remains in the mind of American consumers through television commercials in which actor John Houseman proclaimed "Smith Barney makes money the old-fashioned way--we earn it."

25 August 1995, New York Times, Advertising by Stuart Elliott, pg. D5:
Smith Barney summons the ghost of a haughty
John Houseman in a revival of its "timeless" ads.
Mr. Houseman uttered the theme in 18 commercials, from 1979 to 1986, created by the Oglivy & Mather New York Unit of the WPP Group, which handled the account from 1979 until McCann New York took over. Oglivy New York's tenure spanned the days of Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Company; that firm's acquisition by Primerica, later the Group; a combination with Shearson Lehman Brothers, and some renamings.

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