Here is the response directly from the American Express corporate archivist when asked who is C.F. Frost. I thought this might be interesting information to archive here as well.
First, I'd like to thank you for submitting some terrific questions after my first installment to this site. The response has been almost overwhelming. It's gratifying to see how many of you are interested in our company's storied history.
One of the most popular questions on employees' minds concerns the iconic and almost mythical C.F. Frost. This familiar name appears in many U.S. and international American Express card product advertisements.
Charles F. Frost is in fact a real person. He served as the American Express advertising account manager at Ogilvy & Mather in the 1960s, an agency with whom American Express has maintained a decades-long relationship.
The name "Charles F. Frost" debuted on card artwork in a series of print ads in 1966. Prior to Frost, American Express used "John J. Smith" in 1958 and "John Craig Heston" between 1963 and 1966. When Ogilvy & Mather began creating card advertising in the mid-1960s, American Express was anxious to have a written agreement with a real person, whose name would appear on the card, thereby avoiding potential legal issues and endless correspondence from people who had the same name as a fictitious one.
When the agency prepared the preliminary artwork for the campaign, they used Charles F. Frost's name on the mock-ups for the card ads. The Card Division's advertising team liked Frost's name because it was easy to remember and sounded better than the overly-used "John Smith" or "John Doe." With Frost's permission, and a signed agreement, a minor celebrity was born.
The Frost name began appearing in personal and "Executive Credit" card advertisements in the U.S. and shortly thereafter in several international markets, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, El Salvador, Greece, Hong Kong, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Over time the moniker evolved along with the business. For instance, in the first decade that the American Express Card was available, mostly affluent businessmen represented the significant majority of cardmembers. By the 1970s, there was a marked shift in cardmember demographics as more women entered the workforce. American Express responded to these changes by using Mr. Frost's wife's name, Kathryn, in card advertising, too. Their two children also got into the act -- their names were occasionally used to advertise supplemental cards for family members.
In 1977, American Express retired "Charles F. Frost" and replaced it with "C.F. Frost." According to the January 1978 issue of the employee magazine, Going Places: "Recently the Card Division decided that using a variety of names was too confusing. From now on the prototypical Cardmember will simply be called 'C.F. Frost.' This eliminates the problem of attracting potential cardmembers of both sexes with the same ad." In fact, by 1978, nearly 25 percent of all cardmembers were women.
Today, more cards than ever before use C.F. Frost. Consumer charge cards, OPEN cards (Frost and Rexport, Inc.), ICSS Small Business Service cards and some cobrand and lending products bear the embossed C.F. Frost name. To maintain consistency, there are plans to migrate his name to as many cards as possible, thereby making Frost an even more indelible imprint on American Express history.
Interestingly enough, he has also provided some other information about the other names.
Today, there is a list of cardmembers who have signed talent releases with Global Advertising and Brand Management. Below is a sampling of some of their names, which are featured on our advertisements.
J.L. Benjamin (Centurion)
P.A. Vaughn, Rexport, Inc. (Corporate Cards)
L.A. Webb (Blue from American Express, Blue Sky, Blue Cash and Clear)
A. R. Bain (RED)
D. Martin (Argentina)
Y. Legrand (France)
I. Sig (Germany)
G. Giorgio (Italy)
I. Lopez (Mexico)