The Wall Street Journal’s “Creative Leaders” Series is one of the best testimonial trade ad campaigns ever created.
My boss says the one profiling Ron Anderson is his favorite. He shared the ad—and some personal observations—with his co-workers back in 1997.
Yesterday he asked me to scan this page (from his self-published book) and KEYSTROKE THE WHOLE THING!!!
I said people could just read the text on the screen.
He barked, “But Google can’t. So just do it. Please.”
So now I’m typing…
RIGHT ON, RON.
Ron Anderson. EVP, ECD/Midwest, B&J. A native Kansan, he came to Minneapolis intending to move on. But he stayed—and has made his mark on what some believe to be one of America’s hottest creative markets. Here, from a recent conversation, are the thoughts of a creative leader who’s stayed put geographically—but who’s never stopped moving professionally.
ON EARLY DAYS: “When I arrived, I saw no good reason to stay. The winters can be brutal. And the creative work was primitive. But I fell in love with the state and the people. And I saw an incredible opportunity. Two of us bought the old Knox Reeves agency. A few years later, we became part of Bozell & Jacobs. Today? I can’t even imagine living anywhere else.”
ON MINNESOTA TODAY: “The percentage of good creative work may be the highest of any market. It’s not just us. There’s an awesome collection of good agencies for a market this size. Chuck Ruhr, Martin Williams, Duffy Knutson Oberprillers, Carmichael Lynch, Fallon McElligott Rice. That tells you something about the vitality of this community. Our agency? We’re good. But believe me, in minnesota you have to be good—or you’ll be gone!”
ON A CREATIVE EDUCATION: “I’ve been reading: speeches, award annuals, books. I’ve never worked with Bob Gage, Helmut Krone, Bill Taubin. But I’ve learned by studying their work. Frankly, I think it may be an advantage I’ve enjoyed. In New York, writers and art directors may have the chance to learn from one good person—if they’re lucky. But here, you have to learn by reading. So you learn from all the great talents. That gives you a broader perspective, a better education. The way I see it, I’ve learned advertising from the best people in the business.”
ON MAKING IT FROM GOOD TO GREAT: “Read the classic books on advertising and you’ll quickly find the formula for good work. Claude Hopkins had it right: you look at the product, find out what it offers consumers, express the proposition with freshness, vitality and directness. But making it from mediocre to good, from good to great, takes more than a formula. You have to want to be great. You have to care. You have to be willing to pay the price; to work until it hurts. If you do, you’ll produce advertising that makes clients very happy.”
ON TRUSTING PEOPLE: “My first job was as a board artist, one of ten in an in-house department. I fouled up and the woman in charge summoned me into her office. I just knew I was going to be fired. But she put her arm around me and said, ‘Ronnie, there’s nothing you can screw up that we can’t fix up.’ I felt terrific. That was trust. I’ve never forgotten what it can mean to a young person.”
ON STRATEGY AND EXECUTION: “Advertising based on a sound strategy but executed poorly is as dull as another snowy day in January. Advertising executed brilliantly but based on a weak strategy may be entertaining—but it won’t work. So you have to do the whole job, not just half. Strong strategy. And strong execution. I don’t always succeed. But that’s always my goal.”
ON THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: “I’m usually the first person in the office, so I have first crack at The Wall Street Journal. It’s a good time to read The Journal. No interruptions. Time to read every page. And I do read it, page for page. You see, I believe everything in The Journal is relevant to the business of advertising. As a creative person, I love The Journal. The black-and-white simplicity is an enormous advantage. It means my black-and-white ads are on equal footing with all of the other ads. I don’t have to worry about a competitor with a bigger budget buying a four-color ad. Around our agency, creatives believe assignments in The Journal are the best creative opportunities. It’s a showcase, a quality environment with first-rate reproduction. It’s the place where your best work can be seen by the most important people. It’s never a problem finding a creative team to tackle a Journal assignment. What’s tough is deciding who’s going to get the assignment. After all, what good creative wouldn’t want her or his work in The Wall Street Journal?”
The Wall Street Journal. It works.