In 1923, John Orr Young and Raymond Rubicam established a small advertising agency in Philadelphia. The company moved to New York in 1926 as a condition of securing a contract with the newly formed Jell-O company. Soon the company moved into offices at 285 Madison Avenue, which remained the company's location for 87 years.
During the 1960s, Y&R produced the first color television commercials. In the 1970s, under the leadership of Edward N. Ney as chief executive officer, Y&R expanded with the acquisition of Wunderman Ricotta & Kline in 1973, Cato Johnson in 1976, and Burson-Marsteller in 1979. Throughout the 1980s, Y&R bought diverse firms like Landor Associates in corporate and brand identity. By the end of the decade there were nine companies formally owned.
In 1995, Y&R began an acquisition push again, increasing ownership in advertising agencies and public relations firms across Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America.
In 1996, Hellman & Friedman became Y&R's first outside investor, and on May 15, 1998, Y&R closed an initial public offering of its common stock, and became a public company. In 2000, Y&R was acquired by the WPP Group, a London-based marketing communications holding company.