It all started in 1953.
AAF Jackson was founded as the Greater Jackson Advertising Club, later known as the Jackson Advertising Federation. An affiliate member of the American Federation of Advertising (AFA), the purpose of the club was to promote and perpetrate creative excellence in advertising, further the education of advertising professionals and students, and defend the advertising industry against adverse government action. In 1959, the club held its first ADDY Awards, an event produced by local professionals for the purpose of recognizing creative excellence in the Jackson market.
In 1964, Al Sorge, who had served as club president in 1962 became the club’s first member (as well as the first Mississippian) to serve as the AFA’s 7th District Governor. He also went on to serve on the AFA National Board of Directors. It was 21 years later (1985) that another of our past presidents, Maggie Clark, was chosen to serve as 7th District Governor and a member of the AAF National Board of Directors. Prior to her term as governor, she served as Chairman of AAF’s Public Service Committee and as the AAF liaison to the Reagan White House’s Volunteerism Committee. In 1983 Clark was the third person to ever receive the AAF Council of Governors highest honor, the Medal of Merit. It was presented by AAF President Howard Bell in Columbus, Mississippi.
In 1967, the AFA and the AAW (American Advertising of the West) united to become the American Advertising Federation (AAF) with some 200 local affiliate clubs. Jackson was the eighth club chartered as a member of the AFA‘s 7th “Deep South” District. At that time, the other district clubs were Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Birmingham, Memphis, Mobile, Nashville, and New Orleans.
Beginning in 1960, the club has annually presented its prestigious Silver Medal Award to recognize the Advertising Person of the Year. It was initially sponsored by Printers Ink Magazine. In the early days of the award, women were not eligible for nomination so our club presented its own Advertising Woman of the Year award.
In 1973, the Silver Medal Award was expanded to include women. The first female recipient was Yvonne Sorge, an account executive with Gordon Marks & Company.
It was not until 1984 that the club really got involved in defending the advertising industry against adverse government action. In that year, Mississippi Governor Bill Allain and the leadership of the legislature began exploring the feasibility of a tax on advertising. Under the direction of our club’s Legislative Liaison, Gene Clark, we organized a cohesive lobbying force with the Mississippi Association of Broadcasters, the Mississippi Press Association, the Mississippi Outdoor Advertising Association, and the Mississippi Association of Advertising Agencies to defeat the proposed legislation while it was still in committee. The effort resulted in the bill never becoming a reality. Following Gene Clark, Jake Smith has served as 7th District’s Legislative Liaison since 1986.
The Jackson Advertising Federation changed its name to the American Advertising Federation in 2007, and today it’s one of the most vigorous and proactive professional organizations in the nation. Under the leadership of our Past President and former 7th District State Director Chip Sarver, all of Mississippi’s local AAF affiliates hosted the first Student Leadership Conference in the history of the AAF. Capital Gains was held at Jackson State University’s E-Center on October 25, 2003, and was attended by over 150 students, advisors, and AAF national staff members. The day-long event has become an annual event.
AAF Jackson is the only advertising group that represents every segment of our industry. President Franklin Roosevelt once said, “the general advising of the standards of modern civilization… would have been impossible without the spreading of higher standards by means of advertising.”
Those words still hold true, and AAF Jackson leads the way in making advertising a vibrant and powerful force in Mississippi.