Great Print Advertising Is Simple… And Difficult.

recession-advertisementA significant influence on my career was the amazing creative work done in the early 1980s by a small Minneapolis agency called Fallon McElligott Rice. Formed in 1981 by Art Director Nancy Rice, Copywriter Tim McElligott, and Account Executive Pat Fallon, the agency ran away with a mountain of advertising awards during their four-year partnership.

As you can see from the samples I’ve included in this blog, their advertising was so simple, it hardly needed any body copy. It was so clever, it gave all of their clients a halo of supreme intelligence – even a beauty parlor. Even people who were sold by their ads, who bought or used the products and services they advertised, felt more intelligent for being persuaded. One look at their ads and you’ll understand why.

One reason for their success was Nancy Rice’s stubborn refusal to accept anything less than brilliant ideas from her writers. People who were partnered with Ms. Rice, including Mr. McElligott, would become extremely frustrated. They’d come up with what they thought was a great idea and she would just lean back in her chair and wait without saying a word. It was this refusal to produce anything but brilliance that helped FMR steal clients like Rolling Stone Magazine and Porsche from their Madison Avenue agencies.

My partner is the same way with me, and I’m the same way with her. We never hesitate to let each other know when we’ve come up with a lousy idea (which we often do). It helps that we’ve been married for a while. We’re used to saying “no” and bringing out the best in each other.

Coming up with a great idea can be exhausting and frustrating, but, for some reason, its usually right after hitting bottom that our ideas hit the top.

The Meaning Within The Word.

Shakespeare wrote, “hear the meaning within the word.” I love that quote. I try to apply it to all my interactions with friends, family, clients and even casual conversations with strangers.


I was recently at the supermarket and I met a cashier that I have seen several times before. I remembered her because one time I saw her crying. What made the greatest impression on me, however, was not that she was crying, but that I didn’t properly reach out to her. Of course, I asked if she was okay. She said she was “just fine,” and at the time, I was happy to leave it at that. I had a meeting to get to, and she was, after all, a stranger. Continue reading

Our Most Rewarding Work – Nonprofit Advertising

Some years ago, although we were extremely busy, we decided that we really wanted to do some pro bono work to give back to the community that helped us grow. We met with the women at the DeKalb Rape Crisis Center and volunteered to do a promotional film for them. They used the ten-minute film to present to corporations for donations. We also cut a thirty-second television spot from the film that ran for a while on Atlanta TV. They’re still using the film today. It works.

Later on, we were introduced to the people at The Women’s Resource Center To End Domestic Violence. They had seen our work for the DRCC and wanted a film of their own. We produced a film for them in 2000, and another one in 2010. Both have been extremely successful.dekalb-rape-crises-poster

We have also written, directed, edited, and produced three successful fundraising films for Students Without Mothers and one for Growing Up Without A Father. Continue reading

My First (And Favorite) Ad.

new-york-philharmonic-advertisingIt was the 1970s in New York, just a decade or so after Mad Men filled Madison Avenue with whiskey, smoke, and imagination. My high school teaching job was swept away by budget cuts. I pounded the pavement for nine months trying to get a job as an advertising copywriter. It was exhausting.

Finally, I landed an interview with George Newell, Creative Director at McCaffrey & McCall, Inc., then the agency of record for Exxon Corp., Mercedes-Benz, Canadian Club, JCPenney, Norelco, Avis…the list goes on and on.

When I was ushered into Mr. Newell’s handsome, but very messy corner office, he was in the midst of packing his awards into a cardboard box. “Hey. Sit. I’m moving, so pardon the mess.” He was about to leave the agency to preside over an animation company. “Too bad you’re a junior. The agency needs a seventy-thousand-dollar copywriter.” Continue reading

The Pitch And Thinking Outside The Box

treasure-boxThroughout our twenty plus years in advertising, my partner/husband and I have been to many invigorating pitches. The most meaningful pitch, however, has to be the one that won us the Kroger Atlanta Supermarket account. Seventy-five ad agencies from around the country were vying for their business, and here we were, just the two of us, in a newly formed agency with no staff, no account executives, and no receptionist, but a whole lot of chutzpah (we are originally from New York, after all) and a really good idea.

I knew exactly how we were going to win the account, and it was all because we had been audited once – and because I was a serial Kroger supermarket shopper who consistently paid for groceries by check.The audit experience taught me that I should always keep records and never throw anything out, including cancelled checks (remember those?). So, armed with five years’ worth of cancelled Kroger checks, from living both in Cincinnati and Atlanta, I knew we were going to be the couple that won Kroger over. The old adage “everything happens for a reason” looped itself in my mind as my husband and I poured over year after year of cancelled checks. We even enlisted our two young daughters because we knew that one day they would look back on this experience and remember the day that they helped their parents triumph over seventy-five other ad agencies.Together, we were able to unearth eighty-one cancelled Kroger checks. How impressive! Good thing we liked to eat. Continue reading

Give Consumers A “Taste” Of The Product.

It was 1984 and I was an Associate Creative Director at Sive Associates, a Young & Rubicam agency in Cincinnati. The town loved its Reds and Bengals and, most of all, it’s Cincinnati Chili.

Cincinnati Chili is…different. It’s served with spaghetti, lots of minced onions, and a mound of shredded cheddar cheese. The secret-recipe chili itself contains beef, of course, but it also contains chocolate, cinnamon, and heaven only knows what else – kidney beans are optional. To some it’s peculiar, even awful, but to the people of that south Ohio town, it’s miraculous. They can’t eat it without smiling. Continue reading

Having Grace

I have always had a fascination with trees. They stand silent as a witness to generations. They absorb both joy and sadness and grow stronger with time. Their bark tells their history; their roots run so deep.

havinggraceMaybe that’s why, when on a neighborhood walk, I stopped dead in my tracks and decided I could go no further until I snapped an up-close photo of the bark of a hundred-year-old tree. I began wondering what this tree has gone through, how many storms it had endured, and how many of its neighbors were cut down so that others could stay warm and dry. A quiet dignity in that weathered bark became evident in the photograph. I somehow felt a kinship with that tree, and I felt grateful for the shade and the glory it provided. Maybe it was the warmth and euphoria of an early spring day, but I began imagining what it might be like to be that tree standing in its truth for so long.

My curiosity turned to inspiration before the rain began. I decided to unite the photo of the tree bark with a photo of myself using Snapseed, an ap for the iPad with a rather serendipitous name (see below). Once I selected my favorite composite, I metaphorically became one with the tree. I like the photo. It reminds me to be strong, and to acknowledge grace.