Remembering the godfather of Minneapolis advertising

Advertising legend Ron Anderson, the father of ANDvertising

People ask if my dad was a Mad Man living in a ‘Mad Men’ world when he worked in advertising. Well, if Don Draper went to church twice a week, was 100% faithful to his wife, didn’t drink, smoke or cuss, then yeah – my dad was a real Mad Man. I’m so proud of him.


Gave me the opportunity to make photos … much appreciated.


I had to interview with Ron for my Assistant Account Executive position. Shortly after that I got to work directly with him and Bert Gardner on the Pork Producers account, coordinating matters with our Omaha office. I was 24 years old. One day we flew to Omaha for a client presentation – watching those two in action was mesmerizing. Truly, they were titans of our industry. I will always remember his gentle and quiet demeanor and innate ability to extract the highest level of creative work possible.


Minneapolis has the reputation as a source for some of the most creative advertising in the country. You need only look back to the days of Bozell Minneapolis to discover the catalyst for developing many of the great creative minds in our industry, past and present, like Tom McElligott, Nancy Rice, Bob Barrie…his name is RON ANDERSON.


Other than my dad (a commercial artist), Ron had the most influence on my career. He was the sweetest soul you can imagine. And it’s easy to—if you’ve had some fame in this business—become an asshole. I’ve always admired him for not becoming one. He taught me simplicity. People aren’t looking for your ads. Be simple enough to suck them in, give them your message and get out.


Ron was a gentleman.


He was easily my favorite colleague and partner for 27 years. Huge man. Huge talent. Ginormous soul. Love you, Ron.


The Best!


Some of the happiest days of my life, working with the best group of people ever. Ron made everyone feel special – the thought of painting the Christmas cards with him each year just came to mind. (smile emoticon)


Ron was always warm, friendly, down to earth. He didn’t wear his power around the office like some smaller men do.


I would have to say, Ron is one of the sharpest creative talents to come out of Bozell and one heck of a nice guy. It was always an honor just to talk to him.


Having worked with Ron twice in my career (Bozell and Bozell Kamstra) what I remember most was his enthusiasm for the business!!! Sometimes when I would be down about a pitch we lost or a problem we were having, he was great at getting me pumped up and putting everything in perspective. I’m also fortunate enough to have one of his paintings in our lake home in Wisconsin!!! My prayers are with Ron and his family.


I absolutely adored working for Ron … he treated me like gold … how grateful I am to have had seven and 1/2 years as his personal assistant!


He was so special to many people and for many reasons. I was fortunate to have known him both in a professional and personal way. One of my favorite memories was when he gave his personal faith story and read a book to our Sunday School class. I loved listening to him read.


So I’m sitting here, this very minute, wrestling with some ad copy, going back and forth, trying a few tricks to unlock the copy and I see all these messages and I think of Ron. I think of his early advice to me, 1984, a hatchling copywriter. I’m looking over at him and I know he’s about to hand me the secret to great copy. Ron says, twinkle in his eye: “Relax. No one reads copy.”


I first met Ron as a young account guy in NY. I remember thinking I had never seen a top exec who was so humble and kind. I wound up moving to Minneapolis to work in that office, the erstwhile Knox Reeves, which he and David Bell sold to Bozell, and only then did I realize what an icon he really was. Ron had moved to NY – sending him to NY in exchange for Ron Benza and me was the worst trade since Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps! – and a few months later the AdFed had a luncheon honoring him. I remember to this day the invitation, the headline of which was, I believe, only two words – “Dad’s Home.” What a fitting tribute. I also remember one of my art director friends in the NY office calling me, mystified by his new boss. “I’ve never seen a Global Creative Director who goes into the studio and gets his hands messy with a glue-pot!” That was Ron as well – never too big or important to lose connection with the work or the people of the agency. I’m grateful for knowing him. P.S. That Ron Anderson is not in the Advertising Hall of Fame does not diminish him; it diminishes the Advertising Hall of Fame.


Truly a high point in my career, working with Ron at Bozell Minneapolis.


I am well under 50, but have read – and heard his name mentioned – more than anyone else. No Ron, no Tom. No Tom, no Fallon. No Fallon, no national/international recognition as a premier advertising market. Thank you Ron for teaching most of the people who taught me the most.


Great man who always made everyone feel special and Ron is indeed special.


I remember he let me and Mike Gustafson stay in the Bozell penthouse on Fifth Ave when we were in town to accept an ANDY Award. Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn were our across-the-hall neighbors.


Ron was so approachable and down to earth. I did help with some of his typography needs while at CPS studio. He also was present at our infamous holiday parties and used to appreciate the entertainment — me 🙂


His creative intelligence is legendary. I had the honor of working with Ron in the Minneapolis office from 1976-1980. I was VP Account Management on the Northwestern Bell business. Our charge was to increase long distant toll revenues. David Bell, president of the B&J Midwest Region was responsible for landing the Bell business. I was moved from B&J Dallas to B&J Minneapolis to manage the Bell business. The results of the “Smile America” NW Bell campaign led to the “Reach and Touch Someone” national Bell campaign that’s legendary. Ron and Tom McElligott were the creative team. Ron, our Creative Director, was the most creative mind I know. His creative intelligence is legendary. His work was not only brilliant, but it met the goals and objectives of our creative work plans and produced results. If he had an ego, I never saw evidence of it. Working with Ron established for me a level of professionalism by which I measured creative talent for the remainder of my career. My condolences to his family. God Bless.


Always the gentleman, he often stopped by my desk to say hello, and to sample the cookies I had baked.


Truly, he was a truly brilliant man. I remember just how kind and generous he was both as a father and as a creative director at Bozell & Jacobs. I was always in awe of his talent.


Ron was a great creative force and just as important, a gentleman and all around good guy. I remember sharing the speakers panel with him at a One Show club meeting in NYC. He and I became friends when I was ECD in Bozell Atlanta and he was with Bozell Minneapolis. After the One Show gig we went out for drinks and food with several others, and talked old times until closing time. He will always hold a special place in my memories. He was one of a kind.


In 1976 I was a young man making a living as a diesel mechanic but I could also draw pretty good cartoons. I shared them with Ron. After he looked at them, he made a call to Art Center College of Design in California. Then said to me, “You should go there.” So I did. Changed my life! He also had a big influence on me spiritually. Thanks Ron!


Ron was one of the main reasons I got into advertising. I admired his work all thru high school and college. It was my dream job to someday work for him. And I was so lucky to have gotten to work with him for 5 years. I left Bozell for Ruhr, spent three years there, and when I moved to the Richards Group, he came to my going away party. That meant the world to me. He was the absolute best. Truely, the Godfather of Minneapolis Advertising.


I first met Ron when I was an administrative assistant. He was such a kind and generous man with a gentle sense of humor. Later, he became the creative director on Pfizer when I was the account executive. In one terrible, mismanaged shoot, the photographer had chosen a red tipped thermometer because it popped so well against the purple sweater worn by the little girl in the shot. We later found out thermometers are tipped in red to indicate they are anal thermometers. Ron stepped in and saved the day, but we sure did giggle about that.


Nothing but good memories of Ron and his creative direction. He is in my prayers.


Ron was always there with a kind and smart word.


I was lucky to have worked with Ron at Bozell in New York City. He was an advertising genius and is the one mentor I still find myself talking about and thinking about nearly every single day. I may have missed the Golden Age of Bill Bernbach, but I was one of the lucky ones to experience the Silver Age of Ron Anderson. He was kind, gentle and caring. His smile lit up the room. He will never be forgotten.


I worked with Ron in the Minneapolis office for years – he made great advertising, while also being a great guy.


The very first project I ever produced was a pro bono PSA with Ron (and Lisa Brandriff) for The American Bible Society. He was such a kind, funny, soft spoken man.


I remember when I was CD at Bozell Kamstra. We won the Fujitsu account out of Tokyo. Ron said to me, “Be careful with international advertising. Chevy named a car ‘Nova’ and in Mexico it meant ‘no go.’” On another occasion I found out Ron flew to Australia in coach. I thought this man certainly has the wherewithal to fly business class at least. When I asked him about it later, he said he did it because the friends he was traveling with didn’t have money to fly first class.


Fresh out of college and being able to work with a legend like Ron and even help him with his watercolor art was such an amazing way to start my career.


Ron recognized talent and nurtured creatives no matter where they worked. If you created a good ad, he let you know it. He was competitive and passionate. But Ron placed individuals and their work above agency rivalries and personal success. Wish there were more like him.


As a 27 year old writer I got into the One Show with Ron as my art director.


Dear Ron: You were always very kind to me and I certainly appreciated it.


I was fortunate to meet and work for Ron early in my career. He was an amazing creative leader and a soft spoken gentlemen. Like most of the senior management at BJK&E he made a point of knowing your name and made you feel like a part of team. Bozell was my ‘Creative Graduate School’ and it was an honor knowing him.


Ron Anderson was the best friend and colleague I had in a 25-year ad career. He was an extraordinarily gifted designer and art director who became first my boss, then my mentor and finally my dear friend and partner. Ron won hundreds of advertising awards around the world for some of the most original, smart, funny and persuasive advertising of the 20thC. He was highly intelligent, funny, kind, generous and easily the finest advertising art director ever to work in Minneapolis. I miss my partnership with Ron everyday. He taught me virtually everything I ever knew about advertising. And every hour I ever spent with Ron was a joy. May God love and protect the soul of this extraordinary gentleman. And may God comfort his wife, Charlotte, and their fine children.


I was a wannabe art director at Bozell when Ron pulled me out of the scary room and found a spare table, chair, and account to help me become a real art director. He told me I’d get enough line to sink or swim. Thanks Ron for taking a chance and giving it to me.


Anyone who has seen the 1988 Tom Hanks’ movie Big can appreciate the grandiose surroundings that those of us at Bozell New York enjoyed. A former department store, the interior boasted a towering atrium, sky-high Corinthian columns, a professional kitchen replete with a full-time chef, and several presentation theaters. Best of all the building was occupied by talented, friendly, dedicated professionals. It was a home we were all proud of. Sadly, at least for me, Ron Anderson chose not to take up full-time residence in NYC. But when he made his regular visits vibrancy superseded anything that was already present. He would stroll the corridors on the third floor chatting to his creative team, and then wander throughout the other floors re-engaging with everyone. His gentle, caring demeanor inspired us all.


Ron had an impact on many careers beyond Minneapolis, mine included.


There are a lot of great ad careers today because of him.


Ron was an icon to me. Whenever I worked with him he treated me as an equal and that astounded me. I still feel honored. What talent and kindness and fun.


I had the pleasure of working for Ron in NY. My favorite quote of his was to an account guy in a meeting after hearing the budget and the deliverables – “Well young fella, that’s like trying to fertilize a field with a fart.”


I am SO using that ‘fertilize a field with a fart’ line!! Ron, if you’re listening: BIG KISS! xoxoxo


Though we served on the board of the One Show together for a while, I only had occasion to talk one on one to Ron a couple of times. The most memorable was when he moved to New York to take over the creative helm of his agency’s headquarters office. I asked him how it was going. He told me he was having difficulty getting anything accomplished. “Why is that?” I asked. He smiled and said, “When I was in Minneapolis, I didn’t get nearly as much help.” That alone made me wish I knew him better.


Ron was incredibly generous to me in my time at Bozell. Though I didn’t get to work with him as much as I would have liked, I’ve tried to practice what I learned from him over my career. He certainly set a standard I can only hope to this day to live up to.


Ron was a really great, yet humble man!


It is stunning for somebody who wasn’t in town at the time to realize how many in that photo are now, or have been ECD’s, CD’s and agency owners.


Ron had a gentle sardonic sense of humor. He was the kindest guy around.


A gigantic talent in a humble, kind and dear human being.


Ron was one of the creative geniuses that put Minneapolis on the advertising map. I was so honored to work with him as a client. A true All Star.


Such a lovely and interesting man – so easy to talk to, and generous with his time and creativity. We have two of his paintings hanging in our home – real treasures.


We were lucky enough to be lake neighbors of Charlotte and Ron. You couldn’t have better neighbors than them!! Ron was a fabulous and talented person. He will be greatly missed!!


I worked for Ron for 2 years. When I told him once that I thought I was out of ideas, he said, “No, you’re not, get back to work.” I went on to head my own agency, Schmitt & Sloan, for 15 years and then write 34 mystery novels, several of which hit the New York Times Bestseller List. Clearly, Ron was right. I owe everything to him. My sincere condolences to his family. Bless you, Ron.


In an industry filled with yo-yos, Ron is the epitome of class, character, and decency.


While I never worked at Bozell, way back when, Ron took me under his wing and helped me improve my woeful “book.” Throughout my career, I did my best to return the favor with other aspiring ad types. We had a lot of lunches at the Loon, and discussed everything from type faces to faith. I’ll always be grateful that an ad genius made time for me. Who says good guys finish last?


I loved working with Ron on the Chrysler account in New York. He was such a gracious gentleman. His kind and professional demeanor was such a delight. When he walked the hallways he brought such a bright spot to everyone he encountered. Because he lived in my town of Ridgewood, NJ, I recall on a number of occasions I had to drop off some creative to the townhouse he and his wife owned. He’d always invite me in and thanked me for going out of my way to bring him related Chrysler material. My hat is tossed in the air for THIS WONDERFUL MAN. Love you, Ron!


Ron greatly impacted an industry which impacted many individuals. Reminds me of how former Packers revered Vince Lombardi. Sure they won lots of championships. But the players remember him because he helped them be their best in football AND in life. That’s how I will always look at Ron.


A privilege to work with such a bright, kind, world class talent. Ron inspired and made everyone he connected with better by measures that extend well beyond the ad biz.


A wonderful and decent man. One of a kind.


Ron was committed to excellence. But he’s remembered for more than advertising. In the eyes of those who knew him, he was a great humanitarian first and an advertising man second.


I worked on ads with Ron for Billy Graham. He was one, huge influence in my career.


Ron Anderson, as I’m sure he was for everyone he came in contract with, did far more than make me a better creative person than I came into the office being, every day. He totally influenced my career in terms of his drive, enthusiasm, overwhelming optimism and amazing people skills. Most importantly, he made me a better human being.


Unlike many of you I didn’t know my Uncle Ron through work. I knew him as my father’s favorite brother. He was always a wonderful uncle and stand-up guy. He started from meager beginnings playing baseball with a sock! And a very large family with kids that raced home for the pork in the ‘pork and beans.’ I have always admired him and am proud of him and his many accomplishments. A girl had to brag about her sweet uncle. Great sense of humor. And what a laugh!


Ron seemed to always have a smile on his face. He used to come by and shoot baskets with us on our little toy rim. He had a surprisingly good shot. If he liked the work you were doing he’d say, “Keep it up, young fella.” If you had work to do, he’d say, “Keep working” or “You’ve got a way to go yet.”


Ron not only inspired his own creative staff he inspired other agencies to do better work. He’s the key reason Minneapolis became a national creative powerhouse.


I went on many television shoots with Ron when I was a young producer and there are just too many wonderful memories to relay here. Ron was one of the kindest, most respectful people I have ever met in this business. He always helped me get in and out of taxicabs in NYC, Chicago, or wherever we were shooting. Such a consummate gentleman, a gentle man. Nothing but love for Ron Anderson!


I believe Ron Anderson was no less a genius than Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking. It just so happened his passion was the science of marketing. He was the mentor who had the greatest impact on my personal, professional, and spiritual life.


Ron was a gentleman as well as a great talent.


I miss his big smile and twinkly eyes.


Sequential series of photos of Ron Anderson smiling

ON MORE THAN ONE OCCASION I HEARD RON SAY, “Write your obituary before you die. If you’re not 100% satisfied with what it says, there’s good news. You have time to make changes so one day it will.”

Clearly, Ron succeeded. (And set a pretty good example for the rest of us.)

Here are Ron’s obituaries from The Star Tribune, from The New York Times, and from Adweek.

P.S. If you enjoyed reading this post, please ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ it.


(Thank you!)

Editor’s note. This collection of comments was curated by Susan Morris. Some were edited for length.


  1. Thanks David, for this post. It was wonderful seeing these tributes again from so many former Bozell coworkers and Minneapolis ad community colleagues. Maybe that’s Ron’s legacy to me — he gave me the opportunity to know and work with so many of these talented people.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Craig, for taking time to share your thoughts. Ron touched so many lives. I know for a fact countless others feel the same way.


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