Ron Anderson + Tom McElligott

Ron Anderson & Tom McElligottRon Anderson is a quiet, tough-minded art director well-seasoned by over two decades in advertising.

Tom McElligott is an impatient young man who began writing ad copy just eight years ago.

Together, this creative team is producing some of the hardest-to-ignore advertising around.

This is the story of how Ron and Tom “found one another.”

We’ll begin in 1962 when Ron Anderson left a Kansas design studio to come to Knox Reeves Advertising in Minneapolis. Working on accounts like General Mills and Alberto Culver, Ron soon earned enough respect—and ad awards—to gain an executive position in the agency. One of his first concerns was helping the younger creative people.

“Somebody had to feel responsible for the new people,” Anderson says. “I looked for the ones who could think. Craft can always be developed. I like intensity. Toughness. People who can stand up to stubborn account exec’s and clients. Then I like to give them the opportunity to fly. So what if they mess it up a little at first? I did. Everybody does. I’ve never forgotten what my first boss said:

‘There’s nothing you can mess up that we can’t straighten out.’

“I tell my people the same thing.”

So while at Knox Reeves, Ron Anderson was not only creating award-winning ads, he was also nurturing young talent like art director Sue Crolick. Art director Nancy Rice. And a 27-year-old copywriter named Tom McElligott.

Tom had joined Knox Reeves Advertising in 1972. He had just two years of ad experience at Dayton Hudson’s department store. As it turned out, he arrived just in time for the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.” It was February 14, 1973. And after months of agony on both sides, General Mills and Knox Reeves parted company. There was mass upheaval. Ron Anderson was suddenly a principal of Knox Reeves using his position to change the entire direction of the agency.

“We had good people,” Ron says. “We were going to do good work. Period.”

The work was so good, Bozell & Jacobs took over Knox Reeves, moving the people and the remaining accounts into lavishly handsome new quarters.

So today on a rough-hewn indoor balcony, festooned with exotic plants and overlooking a seven-story atrium, Ron and Tom continue to do what they do best—hash over ads and ideas that’ll soon become some of the hardest-to-ignore advertising around.

ABOUT THIS POST: This essay was written in 1978 by Sandra Bucholtz. Ms. Bucholtz is a native Minnesotan who knows deep in her heart (under two sweaters and thermal underwear) that you can’t survive in this climate doing lukewarm advertising.

One comment

  1. Luke Sullivan · · Reply

    In 1976, Minneapolis wasn’t that hot, and most of the award-winning stuff was written by these guys. For a long time everyone was jealous of them…mixed jealousy and awe. They became the rabbits the hounds chased. And by doing that, they brought up the level of the entire community. Some of their original breakthrough ads were for the City of Omaha (tourism) and some public service things for their church. They also did some incredible work for Poppin’ Fresh restaurants, which is the only TV campaign I know of that won top honors in every single award show on the face of the earth.

    Liked by 1 person

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