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Founded 📆1964[1]
Founder 👔
Headquarters 🏙️Kansas City, Missouri, USA
Area served 🗺️
Key people
Bob Bernstein, Chairman/CEO
Steve Bernstein, President
Skip Rein, Vice Chairman
Number of employees
📇 Address
📞 telephone

Bernstein-Rein (BR) is a marketing and communications firm established in 1964 and located in Kansas City, Missouri. The agency created the Happy Meal for McDonald's in the 1970s. Bernstein-Rein was one of Walmart's advertising agencies from 1974 through early 2007.[3]

Company history[edit]

In 1964, Bob Bernstein and Skip Rein opened Bernstein-Rein. They had $100 in the bank and took out a $2,500 loan.[4]

Bernstein-Rein was retained by McDonald's in 1967.[5] In 1969, the agency created a series of illustrated glasses for McDonald's called the "Happy Cup." In 1977, Bernstein-Rein created the Happy Meal for McDonald's.[6][7] The Happy Meal was tested in four cities before being released nationally in 1979.[8]

In 1974, Bernstein-Rein was hired by Sam Walton to do advertising for Walmart. The agency worked with Walmart through early 2007.[9][10] The agency developed the "Buy American" ad campaign for Walmart in the 1980s, and in the 1990s developed the smiley face frequently used in Walmart's television and in-store marketing.[4] The "Buy American" campaign came under scrutiny after a Dateline NBC episode in December 1992 charged that Walmart "imports a number of its private-label clothes while playing up its ambitious 'Buy America' campaign."[11]

Before losing its Walmart account in early 2007, BR was one of the six largest independent ad agencies in the United States (36th largest overall),[4] with 350 employees and annual billings of more than $550 million.[9] In 2008, after losing accounts with Walmart and USAA, its gross income was $45.1 million.[12]

In the 1990s, Bernstein-Rein developed its own retail business, Beauty Brands, creating a retail approach it described as "InsideOut Retailing".[13] The agency, which had the entire Blockbuster LLC account until early 1994, came up with the slogan "Make It a Blockbuster Night".[4][14][15]

In 2016, Bernstein-Rein hired Lara Wyckoff as its executive creative director.[16][17]


  1. "Company Website". Retrieved 2010-04-01.
  2. Vockrodt, Steve (2010-04-04). "Bernstein-Rein picks up big account in MetLife". Kansas City Business Journal. Retrieved 2013-04-19.
  3. Creamer, Matthew (August 14, 2006). "Bernstein Puts Smiley Face on a Life Without Wal-Mart". Ad Age. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Barton, Eric (December 7, 2006). "Life Without Wal-Mart". The Pitch. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  5. Baar, Aaron (August 10, 1998). "Bernstein-Rein, Big Mac Reunited". AdWeek. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  6. Madison Avenue. Madison Avenue Magazine Publishing Corporation. 1986. pp. 52–56. Retrieved 29 September 2016. Search this book on Logo.png
  7. Hawley, Amy (August 18, 2011). "Creator of the Happy Meal says KC makes him happy". KSHB. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  8. "K.C. marketer behind Happy Meals' success". Lawrence Journal-World. Associated Press. August 14, 2004. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Bernstein-Rein loses Wal-Mart account". Kansas City Business Journal. August 8, 2006. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  10. Elliott, Stuart (December 15, 2006). "Why an Agency Said No to Wal-Mart". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  11. "Wal-Mart Takes a Hit: Retailer's 'Buy America' Campaign Shaken by NBC News Program". AdWeek. January 4, 1993. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  12. Vockrodt, Steve (2009-04-05). "Bernstein-Rein lays off staff, warns of more". Kansas City Business Journal. Retrieved 2013-04-19.
  13. "Q&A: Steve Bernstein". 2009-04-15. Retrieved 2010-04-01.
  14. Lazarus, George (September 30, 1996). "Shiara Kicks Off 2nd Men's Cologne". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  15. Goll Beatty, Sally (October 2, 1996). "Blockbuster Puts Agencies In a Permanent Shootout". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  16. Collins, Leslie (June 21, 2016). "Bernstein-Rein hires first female executive creative director". Kansas City Business Journal. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  17. Coffee, Patrick (June 17, 2016). "Kansas City's Bernstein-Rein Names Lara Wyckoff as Its New Creative Leader". Ad Week. Retrieved 19 September 2016.

External links[edit]

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