Created in 1971, the Federal Express Corporation, an overnight air freight delivery system was an innovative company known for its memorable advertising campaigns. The core of the Federal Express Advertising History Collection is a series of interviews conducted in 1988 by Dr. Scott Ellsworth. Twenty-five individuals associated with Federal Express advertising were interviewed about the company and its award-winning advertising.
Scope and Contents:
The Federal Express Advertising Collection documents the dvelopment of the overnight air freight delivery company with particular emphasis on the innovative advertising campaigns used to introduce and promote the company's services. The oral histories with individuals associated with both Federal Express Corporation and the advertising agencies form the core of the collection. Abstracts that provide biographical information and summaries of the interviews supplement the oral histories. Research files and company publications provide background information. Television commercials and print advertising contain examples, particularly illustrating the campaigns discussed in the interviews.
The collection is arranged into eight series.
Series 1, Research Files, 1972-1988
Subseries 1.1, Federal Express Clippings Files
Subseries 1.2, Federal Express Research Reports
Subseries 1.3, Research Files
Series 2, Interviewee Files, 1988
Series 3, Oral History Interviews, 1988
Subseries 3.1, Original Interviews
Subseries 3.2, Researcher Copies
Subseries 3.3, Masters
Series 4, Television Advertising, 1973-1989
Subseries 4.1, Television Commercials
Subseries 4.2, Storyboards
Subseries 4.3, Slides and Photographs
Series 5, Print Advertising, 1972-1988
Subseries 5.1, Federal Express Print Advertising
Subseries 5.2, Federal Express Mechanicals
Subseries 5.3, Slides of Mechanicals and International Marketing
Subseries 5.4, Federal Express Posters
Subseries 5.5, Print Reference Materials
Series 6, Public Relations Materials, 1973-1988
Series 7, Company Publications, 1973-1988
Series 8, Miscellaneous, Undated
Biographical / Historical:
In 1971, Fred Smith of Memphis, Tennessee created the Federal Express Corporation, an overnight air freight delivery system. He based his idea for a new approach to the air freight delivery service on the "hub and spoke system." According to Smith's innovative model, a fleet of airplanes would fly packages from cities across the nation each evening to a central "hub" in Memphis, where the parcels would be unloaded, sorted, and re-loaded onto other planes for travel to their final destinations. Smith's objective was two-fold: to expedite delivery of the parcels and to ensure their security in the process.
In 1977, Congress passed the Air Cargo Deregulation Act. This enabled Federal Express to fly much larger planes and to expand its business without substantial capital investment. During its first decade of existence, the corporation achieved remarkable success, enjoying its first billion-dollar revenue in 1981.
Federal Express originally employed two advertising agencies: Ally & Gargano, Inc. of New York City (1974-1987) and Fallon McElligott of Minneapolis (1987 - 1994). In its early years, Federal Express was attracted to Ally & Gargano due to the agency's small size and its entrepreneurial spirit. Fred Smith believed these traits would foster the creativity necessary for original and effective advertising to introduce Federal Express. It was the responsibility of the agency to convince customers not only to abandon such incumbants in the industry as Emery, United Parcel Service and the U.S. Postal Service, but also to trust Federal Express, a newcomer.
Ally & Gargano targeted the professional community and the general public through print advertisements and television commercials. Especially in the latter medium, the agency used humor as its primary marketing technique, emphasizing competitors' "slowness" and "unreliability." In 1981, the agency launched a series of widely acclaimed ads with John Moschitta as the "Fast Talking Man." The slogan "When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight" seen at the close of most commercials served as a practical reminder of Federal Express' function.
Federal Express moved its account from Ally & Gargano to Fallon McElligott in 1987. Fallon McElligott's first television campaign used the phrase "It's more than just a package -- it's your business" and depicted scenes of different work environments. The campaign stressed the seriousness with which Federal Express handled its customers' parcels. In 1988, Federal Express was a sponsor of the Winter Olympics.
Materials in the Archives Center
Ally and Gargano, Inc. Print Advertisements (AC0938)
Made by the Smithsonian Institution and donated by the Federal Express Corporation, 1988.
Collection is open for research.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.