Adweek was founded in June 1978 by a trio of former magazine executives—Jack Thomas, publisher of New York magazine; Ken Fadner, a former vice president of finance at New York and Esquire; and Pen Tudor, a sales executive at Life—who joined together to purchase three regional advertising trade publications in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. The owners wanted to provide a regional focus on the advertising industry’s creative process, account changes and decision makers.
In 1981, Thomas, Fadner and Tudor brought in the designer Walter Bernard to revamp the publications—which by then included editions in Atlanta and Dallas—under a single banner, which Bernard dubbed Adweek. It was to be a national publication with regional editions, with an overall look that was more consumer magazine than trade sheet. The following year, Clay Felker, the storied magazine editor, founder of New York and father of “New Journalism,” joined Adweek and became editor in chief, a post he held until 1986. Felker’s tenure established Adweek as a hipper, more mainstream version of the standard trade publication and ushered in the era of modern advertising criticism.
Adweek experienced a series of ownership changes throughout the following two decades. BPI Communications purchased ASM in 1991, adding Adweek to a roster of magazines that already included Billboard (magazine) and The Hollywood Reporter. In 1994, BPI was bought by the Dutch firm VNU, which changed its name to the Nielsen Company in 2007 after acquiring Nielsen Media Research and ACNielsen.
Meanwhile, Adweek had produced two sister publications—Brandweek to cover brand marketing and Mediaweek to cover the media business—all three of which fell under the AdweekMedia banner. Adweek's regional divisions were discontinued in 2003 and replaced by a single national edition. Nielsen sold the magazines to its current owner, Prometheus Global Media, in 2009.
In October 2010, Michael Wolff, a longtime columnist at Vanity Fair, was named editorial director of AdweekMedia. Wolff reunited and relaunched its three divisions under the Adweek name in 2011. In October 2011, Wolff left the magazine, passing editorial oversight to executive editor James Cooper, who had been the executive editor of Mediaweek before the three titles were combined. Cooper and his editorial team of seasoned professionals have continued to produce a re-energized magazine and website that delivers insightful, forward-thinking content that appeals to the advertising, media and marketing professionals that have always been the brands’ core readers.