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District History

District History


The history of the (Southwest) Tenth District of the American Advertising Federation is linked hand in hand with the community of clubs it serves. One nurtures the other. The Tenth District’s roots are intermingled with the Southwestern Division of the Associated Advertising Clubs of America and the Associated Advertising Clubs of Texas. Both the Division, then comprising the states of Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, and the separate Texas organization were formed about the same time – in 1909 or 1910.


In the beginning, the Texas ad clubs were units of the Southwestern Division and were host to its second annual convention in Dallas in 1910. At the time, Fred Johnston of Dallas was President of the Division and Ed Henry of Fort Worth was Secretary.


The founding of the Dallas Advertising League on June 17, 1908, and the Advertising Club of Fort Worth on February 19, 1909, soon led to a proliferation of clubs throughout Texas – at Corsicana, Denison, Galveston, Greenville and Mart, to name some of the early ones no longer in existence. This fast growth prompted them to carve out a separate Texas section in the Division. Frank Crittenden, the first President of the Fort Worth club, was probably the first President of the Associated Advertising Clubs of Texas.


A handsome program, printed on heavy linen stock for the meeting of the Associated Advertising Clubs of Texas in Waco on February 9-10, 1915, referred to the organization’s “Fifth Annual Convention,” thereby indicating a founding date of 1910, for the group. The state officers were listed: Gus Thomasson (Dallas), President; Amon G. Carter (Fort Worth), First Vice President; E.C. Bracken (Greenville), Second Vice President; and W.V. Crawford (Waco), Secretary-Treasurer. The keynote speaker was Texas Governor James Ferguson.


Topics of that program have been retained in subsequent years: “The Advertising Appropriation: Its Basis and Importance” by A.G. Chaney, Advertising Manager, Titche-Goettinger, Dallas; “The Function of an Advertising Agency” by H.C. Burke, Jr., Fort Worth; “Mr. Noad’s Adless Day,” (a film); and a speech, “America’s Opportunity,” by Richard Waldo, Associate General Manager, New York Tribune. W. V. Crawford discussed “Texas Fraudulent Advertising Law” and the steps being taken for it.


However, an earlier date for the district (1909) can be found in a full-page article in the October 21, 1928, issue of the Wichita Falls Daily Times, which was devoted to the opening of the “19th Annual Convention” in Wichita Falls. That there were still separate clubs for men and women in some of the cities was reflected in the list of clubs represented at the Wichita Falls meeting: Dallas Advertising League, Women’s Advertising League of Dallas, Advertising Association of Houston, Women’s Advertising Association of Houston, Advertising Club of Beaumont, Advertising Club of El Paso, Advertising Club of Fort Worth, Advertising Club of Galveston, Advertising Club of San Antonio, Advertising Club of Waco and the Advertising Club of Wichita Falls.


Many will not realize that the Tenth District has been in existence for over eight decades. The Tenth District has provided a platform for the best in local club leadership. Over the years, strong clubs have inspired weaker clubs to rise to the challenge. In many instances, the best leadership, like cream, has risen to the top in the Tenth District.


The spirit of teamwork within the district was demonstrated early on by the statewide support given the Dallas Advertising League in its bid for and subsequent hosting of the annual convention of the Associated Advertising Clubs of the World in 1912. Some 50 members from other Texas-based clubs joined with 87 members of the Dallas Ad League on a special train of nine cars to the July 1911 Boston convention to extend the invitation. Their slogan: “On to Boston, Back to Texas.” Newspaper accounts described the train as the finest that had ever left the state. Following the Dallas national meeting, five trains took the delegates on a sightseeing trip to Waco, San Antonio, Galveston and Houston. Again, in 1925, when Amon G. Carter of Fort Worth was chairman, the group, proud and excited over having the national meeting in the district for the second time in the first 15 years of its existence, united in strong support of the host city, Houston.


During national emergencies such as the Depression and the World War II years, clubs were at a low ebb and the district did its part to help clubs survive during those years of struggle. In 1922, women were admitted to membership in Fort Worth and the name of the organization was changed from Ad Men’s Club to Advertising Club of Fort Worth.


The chronological list of Tenth District officers dates to H.C. Burke, Jr. in 1920. Records prior to 1920 indicate five presidents: Frank Crittenden, Fort Worth; Gus Thomasson, Dallas; W.V. Crawford, Waco; W.R. “Pat” Patterson, Dallas; and Lowry Martin, Corsicana. There were times when the organization was weak, under-financed or inactive during those early years.


“President” and “Chairman” seem to have been the titles given the district’s top officers in its early years. It was not until the late ’20s that the change was made to “Governor,” with Otto Brunk, Advertising Manager of the Beaumont Enterprise as the first governor for 1928-29. By this time, the national organization had become the Advertising Federation of America (AFA), embracing all of the states east of the Rocky Mountains.


By the ’40s, the Southwestern Division had ceased to exist as a functioning entity and the Texas clubs had closed part of the gap by extending the Tenth District territory to include clubs in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. The minutes of the 1942 board meeting in Dallas show Dallas members Les Harris as Governor and Stanley Campbell as Secretary-Treasurer. The following clubs were listed: Beaumont, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Little Rock, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Shreveport, Tulsa and Wichita, Kansas. The financial report disclosed total expenditures of $219.93; total collections of $474.75; a New Orleans deficit in 1941 of $100 and cash in the bank of $766.26.


Minutes of a board meeting in Little Rock in November 1945 reported the establishment of district headquarters in Dallas with Alfonso Johnson as Executive Secretary. When Johnson died in March of 1950, Earl Saunders, veteran Little Rock agency executive completed the year. At the district’s 1950 convention, Thomas McHale from Dallas was elected Executive Secretary and served until the District began moving him up the officer ladder to the position of Governor in 1962-63. In 1960, he was followed by the 1947-28 District Governor, Ira E. DeJernett of Dallas. He served in this role until his death in 1975.


Prior to 1967, the clubs west of the Rockies were members of the Advertising Association of the West (AAW). In 1967, AFA and AAW merged to form the American Advertising Federation.


At that time, Harry G. Ottmann of Fort Worth, the District’s Governor in 1972-73, was persuaded to become Executive Secretary, a position he held until 1997. June Cerrato, the district’s Governor in 1987-1988, served as the district’s Executive Secretary during the 1997-1998 board year. In September 1998, the district signed a contract with an Austin-based association management firm, Rector-Duncan & Associates and Linda Hinkle was assigned the position of the district’s first Executive Director. In 2003 this contract was not renewed, and Past Governor June Cerrato again stepped up and assumed the duties of Interim Executive Director for two years. A formal search for an Executive Director was conducted and at a meeting in Austin in 2005, Past Governor, Kevin Dobbs was named Executive Director of the Tenth District. The Tenth District remains the only district to have a paid Executive Director.


In 2009, there were a variety of naming configurations in place among clubs and districts throughout the country. National leadership requested consistency and the Tenth District adopted the suggested template—AAF-Tenth District—with all clubs in the district following suit within the next few years.


Through the years, the Tenth District has given the American Advertising Federation and its predecessors many leaders in committees, directors and officers. When Fred Johnston, Dallas, became president of the Southwestern Division of the Associated Advertising Clubs of America (AACOA) and national second vice president in 1913, later moving up to first vice president, it was assumed that he would be AACOA’s first president from the Tenth District. But, after serving two terms as first vice president, he declined the presidency.


Joe Dawson, Dallas, was President of the Advertising Federation of America in 1943-44 and was elected Chairman of the Board for 1945 when the AFA named Elon Borton of New York as its first paid President. Other AFA Chairman of the Board from the Tenth District include Robert Gray, Houston, 1952-53; Melvin Hattwick, Houston, 1964-65; and John R. McCarty, Dallas, 1973-74. In 1963, the AFA turned to the Tenth District for its President, Mark F. Cooper, of San Angelo who was district governor in 1961-62. The most recent AAF chairman from the Tenth District was Governor Dave Keith of Houston in 1982-83.


The Tenth District has been a determined activist in favoring the self-regulation approach in protecting advertising’s credibility. This was first expressed at the Dallas national convention of AACOA in 1912. It was the zeal of the host delegates in Dallas, which crystallized into a crusade for “Truth in Advertising” which spawned the Better Business Bureau movement.


The Truth in Advertising movement came out of the Boston meeting and was developed in Fort Worth during the term of that club’s President, J. Montgomery Brown. From a resolution, part of which read, “We believe in truth, the cornerstone of all honorable and successful business, and we pledge ourselves each to one and one to all to make this the foundation of our dealings.” A souvenir pin was used at the Boston meeting, which was conceived and reproduced as a seal of truth by Brown in an ad that ran on June 29, 1913. Members of the Fort Worth Ad Club demanded that Brown devise a plan whereby all could use the symbol in their advertising. The idea was presented to the other 53 members of Associated Ad Clubs and then swept the country from coast to coast, bringing a new meaning of advertising to the public.


The Tenth District again exerted its influence in the early ’50s when a surge of questionable practices threatened to impair advertising’s integrity. At its 1952 convention in Tulsa, the district pledged support to a program developed by the Dallas Advertising League to promote the adoption by local firms and trade groups of a declaration of advertising principles. Earlier that year, the Dallas Ad League won approval at AFA’s national meeting in New York City of a resolution calling for a statement of principles for good advertising and directed AFA’s board of directors to form a committee of advertising, trade association and other leaders to develop a plan for implementing the statement of principles.


Development of the Advertising Code of American Business began in the Tenth District. Companion resolutions calling for the drafting of such a code were presented to the AFA board of directors by Clifton Blackmon, and to the board of directors of the Association of Better Business Bureaus International (ABBBI) by an ABBBI Director, Duffield Smith of Dallas. Approval by both boards and the Advertising Association of the West created the code.


On April 12, 1966, Jack Timmons of Shreveport, then Governor of the district, was joined by a host of national advertising personalities in giving the code a good sendoff. Fort Worth’s Harry Ottmann chaired the district committee to gain endorsement of the code by all clubs.


Early on, the Tenth District gave attention to its traditional role as protector of the doctrine of truth in advertising and has continued its impact upon such areas as legislation, advertising education, both for students and practitioners, community service and the promotion of public appreciation of advertising. The district’s vitality and strength for pursuing its goals are seen as the result of its independence, its cohesiveness, its resilience in weathering financial ups and downs and the cooperative spirit of its member clubs in working together. The district also has long stood tall among AAF’s 15 Districts as the “obstreperous Tenth,” a term used by advertising leaders more in respect for the district’s vigor, dedication and forthrightness in tackling issues than in criticism and a term accepted by the district more with pride than protest.


But there have been times when the district has not hesitated to raise its voice in dissent when things seemed to be going wrong, whether in statehouses over advertising tax threats, with advertisers over bad practices or even “in house” in the national organization.


One such time came in September 1962 when, at its annual convention in Shreveport, the district adopted, by a vote of delegates from 17 member clubs, a strongly worded resolution calling on the Advertising Federation of America to clean up its policymaking and administrative act or face the prospect of the district clubs “re-evaluating the desirability of continuing their association with AFA.”


The district’s leaders were unhappy about dictatorial policies that they felt diminished the voice of the clubs and districts in AFA affairs. They pointed to an executive committee that was bypassing the board of directors and ignoring the grassroots. The Tenth District’s resolution led to a reorganization of AFA’s governing board and administrative procedures. Few will disagree that today’s AAF is a more efficiently operated organization, better structured and more representative largely because the Tenth District exercised a bit of obstreperousness.


In 1931, the district lost its oldest and largest founding member club – the Dallas Advertising League – in a policy dispute with AFA, breaking an association that had been fruitful for 22 years. But, in 1933, the Dallas Ad League affiliated with the District and AFA. Again, in 1980, this time at odds with the District, the Dallas club withdrew from the district and lost in its bid to remain in AAF without district affiliation. However, history eventually repeated itself and Dallas quickly rejoined the district and AAF.


Persistency paid off in the district’s lengthy campaign to clear the way for the state of Texas to undertake a long overdue tourist and industrial marketing program. The first step was winning voter approval of an amendment repealing a constitutional provision prohibiting expenditure of state funds for tourist and industrial advertising. Rebuffed at several sessions of the Texas legislature, the state advertising committee under Chairman Clifton Blackmon, finally prevailed upon the legislators to submit an amendment to voters in November 1958. Then, joined by the Texas Tourist Association, the district’s committee conducted a statewide advertising program to repeal the “Carpetbagger Clause” in the constitution. The outcome: a voter “yes.”


The second step was the enactment of enabling legislation for an independent agency to handle tourist advertising – and not what Governor Price Daniel wanted – handling of the tourist advertising within the State Highway Department. The district’s legislative committee, also chaired by Clifton Blackmon, lost the first battle but committee, also chaired by Clifton Blackmon, lost the first battle but not the war. In 1959, when legislators approved a measure assigning the administration of tourist advertising to the Highway Department, the district’s legislative committee succeeded in keeping it from becoming operative by blocking approval of an appropriation. Again, in the 1961 Legislature, the measure provided for the Highway Department to assume responsibility for tourist advertising. Again, the district’s committee was successful in eliminating funding.


Meanwhile, John Connally had announced his candidacy for governor, and at a meeting of the district legislative committee, Connally committed himself to going along with the desired legislation.  After he took office in January 1963, Governor Connally kept his pre-election promise, and the Texas Tourist Development Agency was created at his urging by the 58th Texas Legislature in 1963.


The College Chapter Trust Fund was created in 1978. This fund was created for clubs to “house” excess earnings from fundraisers in a district account. This gave a club a place to move these earnings so they did not appear on their books and as a safeguard against future boards overspending funds that they saw on their books. The fund can only be a non-risk account such as CDs as this money always remains the property of the club and not the district so there can be no loss of money such as in an investment account. Because any interest earned by the CD’s goes only towards Education Services and not directly to colleges, the name was changed to the Chapter Trust Fund. These funds are always available to the club if the club needs the funds back.


As part of the organization’s support for AAF’s National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC) the Advertising Education Sponsorship (AES) program was initiated in 1973 for participating Tenth District schools. In addition, annual awards of $1,000 scholarships are given to qualifying advertising students. Funding for the program includes donations from individuals and organizations to the fund that helps pay the registration of the five presenters of the team and a travel stipend for travel. These funds allow teams to utilize a more significant amount of their budget on production of their campaigns. The Tenth District leads the nation in winners in AAF’s National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC) due, in part to the help they receive from the AES program.


As a strong contributor to the American Advertising Awards (ADDYs), the Tenth District maintains a focus on encouraging and supporting local ADDY competitions. During the 2002 Winter Leadership Conference in Tyler, Texas, the first Small Club Judging was held for clubs with fewer than 250 ADDY entries. Given the positive response and high participation, the event, now referred to as Small Market ADDY Judging, continues. Small local clubs bring their entries to a central location where the district provides judges, judging rooms and AV equipment. A minimal fee paid by the participating clubs provides substantial savings over the cost to conduct the judging in their own cities. Since 2009, the event has been held in Dallas with judges selected from the Dallas/Fort Worth area. As many as eight club competitions can be completed in one day. The district absorbs much of the cost of this event to support the success of local ADDY competitions throughout the district.


To add value to membership and participation in district activities, the Tenth District has explored many innovative approaches to hosting conferences and conventions. In 1998, the Tenth District and the Seventh District joined forces and conducted the first joint Summer Leadership Conference in New Orleans. It was a natural choice to follow that successful event with another joint conference in South Padre in 2002. In 2008, Victoria hosted the Winter Leadership Conference on a cruise ship due to a lack of a suitable hotel. Cozumel was lovely but with 14-foot seas and an abundance of seasick bags at the ready during business meeting, it was decided that despite good intentions, there would be no more Winter cruise conferences. In 2011, Fort Worth hosted the first Central Region Conference and began a schedule of Regional Conferences held in a different district every-other-year. National honored the district by hosting the National Conference in Dallas in 2002 and in Austin in 2012.


At its peak in 2006, the district had 29 clubs, which included three Ad 2 affiliations. Since that time several clubs have suspended operations, bringing down the number of clubs in 2019 to 15. Many factors can be attributed to this decline such as the lack of individuals available for leadership rolls and companies having to cut back on budgets, thereby reducing the number of members in clubs. This was not just a District 10 issue but an issue in all districts in the AAF. There has been much discussion about this and concerted efforts to help clubs re-form. When a club does disband, they are encouraged to move any local club funds into the Chapter Trust Fund where they will always be available if the club does try and re-form.


The Innovation & Leadership in Advertising (ILA) Award was created in 2007 with the first recipient being AT&T. The ILA award is a Tenth District award given to a company that exemplifies excellence in four key areas in Advertising; Media Use, Employment in District 10, Diversity and Leadership.


The Southwest Advertising Hall of Fame was created in 2008 with twelve advertising icons inducted as the Inaugural Class. A new class is inducted every year and each honoree is nominated for the National Advertising Hall of Fame.


In 2013, the Executive Committee elected to better align the district with national conference branding—ADMERICA—by changing the name of the District Convention. A contest was conducted for selecting the new name—Advent10n. The summer conference was renamed The Summit. The Winter Conference was discontinued to support clubs heavily involved with ADDY competitions and the challenges of January travel. The scope of Club Officer Training (COT), usually conducted in June, was broadened to include additional content and industry relevance.


2019 was the first year for the Midyear President’s Retreat held in January in conjunction with the Small Market Judging weekend. This is an opportunity for club presidents to get a refresher course in what resources are available to them, where in their program they should be, and open forum to discuss issues with other presidents and get feedback from them and possible solutions from the district.


In early 2020, the COVID pandemic forced the district and local clubs to conduct all business without coming together physically. Late in the planning stages of the district convention (Advent10n), to be held in April in Oklahoma City, the difficult decision was made to switch from an in-person convention to a virtual presentation. The district EC and the planning committee in Oklahoma City spent many hours working out the changes to previously agreed upon financial arrangements and contracts and created a plan to host a virtual Business Meeting to comply with the District By-Laws. Additionally, in-person judging for the district American Advertising Awards competition was canceled to eliminate travel concerns and an on-line judging process was conducted successfully.  The National organization adopted the process for the 2021 competitions for all local, district and national competitions. The 2021 Advent10n in April was an expanded virtual presentation with an extensive online speaker line-up, workshops and a business meeting hosted by AAF-Oklahoma City and the district Executive Committee.


With many of the pandemic prompted restrictions lifted by the summer of 2021, the Central Region Conference, was hosted by AAF-Amarillo in September as an in-person conference. The 2022 Advent10n, hosted by AAF-Houston was an in-person convention as well.


The attendance, speakers and professional growth opportunities of Tenth District conventions are on par with national conferences and the Tenth District’s innovative and unique programs are used as models by other districts across the country. The cooperative strength of the Tenth District brings national attention to the Southwest. As it has from the beginning, the organization continues to combat unethical practices in advertising, raise technical and professional standards in advertising and serve as an important link in the exchange of information. Since the early 1900s, Tenth District leadership has supported those in advertising and kept the industry on a steady course into the 21st century.


Kevin Dobbs
Executive Director

Phone: 432.559.8559
Email Kevin


Division I
500+ Members

Division II
250 – 499 Members

Division III
100 – 249 Members

Division IIII
Less than 100 Members

Division V
AD2 Clubs