When Don Belding graduated from the University of Oregon, he had already distinguished himself by being named one of only six honors students that year. He began his advertising career as a non-paid office boy in the Los Angeles office of Lord & Thomas. He needed only 15 years to become the vice president of Lord & Thomas and manager of that same office where he started. In 1943, Belding joined with Fairfax Cone and Emerson Foote to create Foote, Cone & Belding, which eventually became one of the largest ad agencies in the world. But Belding’s contributions were not limited to his own company. As president of the Advertising Association of the West in 1940-42, Belding formed the War Advertising Council and personally directed the history-making campaign on forest fire prevention: Smoky Bear’s “Only YOU can prevent forest fires.” The War Advertising Council evolved into the Advertising Council, the volunteer arm of the nation’s advertising industry.
In 1967, the Advertising Club of Los Angeles instituted the annual Don Belding Award for Outstanding Creativity to commemorate his significant contributions to advertising in the West. Don Belding died in 1969. He was elected to the American Advertising Hall of Fame in 1970.