Ayer gave up teaching and went working for Dr. Boyd, a friend of his father. That was Ayer's first job in the advertising world. He was offered a twenty five percent commission, selling an advertising space for the publication. Not very successful in the first week, Ayer had earned one thousand and two hundred dollars and Boyd offered him an annual salary of two thousand dollars by the end of the year.
However, Ayer decided to open his own advertising agency and refused the offer. Thus, in April, 1869, N.W. Ayer & Son was established. There were two reasons for this name: first, Ayer gave his father a fifty percent share of the business as a tribute; second, Ayer was twenty one years old and thought it would prohibit his credibility. Such name was given in order to create an impression that the agency was bigger and more established than it really was.
The agency was growing rapidly and in 1873 was making seventy nine thousand dollars annually. A year later, Ayer started issuing his own publications. The first publication, Ayer & Son's Manual for Advertisers, listed papers from which the agency sought its business, the papers' rates and their circulation. N.W. Ayer & Son was already the leading advertising agency of that time and so was going to start editing the American newspaper annual.
The following year a printing department was established and the edition of one of the most popular and business useful newspapers, N.W. Ayer & Son's American newspaper annual, began. In 1876, N.W. Ayer put out The Advertiser's Guide. Unlike N.W. Ayer & Son's American newspaper annual published business articles, essays on advertising, humorous anecdotes and other useful information.
Nevertheless, it is not only the American newspaper annual what made Ayer famous. He entered the history of advertising as one of the most brilliant slogan creator. It was him, who created "When it rains it pours" (advertising salt for Morton Salt, coined in 1912), "I'd walk a mile for a Camel" (advertising Camel cigarettes for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, coined in 1921), "A diamond is forever" (advertising diamonds for De Beers, coined in 1948), "Reach out and touch someone" (advertising a long-distance telephone service for AT&T, coined in 1979), "Be all you can be" (advertising a military service for the United States Army, coined in 1981) and many others.
Wilfred W. Fry married Ayer's oldest daughter, Anna, in 1904. Five years later he became employed at N.W. Ayer & Son. In 1911, he became a junior partner and then the agency's manager in 1916. When Ayer died on 5, March, 1923, Wilfred W. Fry took complete control over the agency.
In 1927, N.W. Ayer & Son became an international agency. It opened a number of offices in Europe and Latin America. The agency changed its name to N.W. Ayer ABH International. The "Son" part that referred to F.W. Ayer himself was inadvertently left out. Later, the agency was called N.W. Ayer & Partners.
Following a general trend in the advertising industry, N.W. Ayer was subject to a number of mergers and acquisitions. The agency was eventually acquired by the Publicis Groupe (based in Paris, France), which closed down the N.W. Ayer offices in 2002.