Norman Catts

27 November 2012

Norman Catts started Norman Catts Advertising in 1918. Two years later he met George Patterson and the two agreed to merge their interests into the Catts-Patterson agency. This became the largest agency in Australia for most of the '20s and early '30s.

Norman Catts is probably best known in advertising circles as the business partner of George Patterson in those years, but in Catts-Patterson's heyday Catts was the bigger name.

He was a key player in the NSW Institute of Advertising Men and the Advertising Association of Australian and New Zealand. "Advertising was certainly at the crossroads when, in 1920, Norman Catts was elected president of the Second Advertising Convention of Australia," recalled Billy Richards in Newspaper News. “Rate cards did not mean a thing; circulation figures were hush-hush. The ABC had not been born and contracts were accepted from any Tom, Dick or Harry posing as an advertising agent. They received 20% or more for introducing new business."

Then a change came over the scene.

The NSW Advertising Agents Association came into being and by 1930 members of the association were accredited by the newspapers.

10% commission was granted (it took the American agencies many years to obtain the same objective). The design for a Constitution and Standards of Practice in Advertising was drafted, and the formation of an ABC was under way.

It was Norman Catts who bell-wethered these activities, assisted by the enthusiasts he gathered around him. “The concessions and privileges granted to the agencies and their clients were in main due to his ability as an advocate, plus his inborn faith in the value of persistent advertising and efficient merchandising.”

Catts and Patterson split acrimoniously in 1934, leading to the formation of the George Patterson agency. Catts-Patterson was eventually bought out by Noel Paton in 1944, and Norman Catts left advertising for executive positions in the chemical industry.