A tribute to Pat Fallon and other local marketing greats

Pat Fallon
Pat Fallon

Congratulations to Pat Fallon on his upcoming induction into the American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame.

Fallon, a volatile genius (I was once on the wrong side of his volatility), arguably contributed more than anyone now living to the growth of Minneapolis as a vibrant advertising center with a reputation for creativity.

With his longtime business associates, Fred Senn and Irv Fish, he built Fallon into a renowned agency doing high-impact work for high-profile clients. Fallon’s rise to international prominence inspired other local agencies and gave Minneapolis an identity in the advertising world as something more than that nice city you flew over on your way to one of the coasts.

Fallon stepped down from day-to-day duties at his agency two years ago but continues to serve as chairman emeritus, consulting with clients and acting as a living brand ambassador for the agency’s creative values.

We all owe a debt to Fallon and others who helped create a thriving Twin Cities marketing industry. This is an idea business, a creative business, a magnet for talent. Highly educated, well-compensated people in the marketing industry contribute to a better quality of life for everyone in the Twin Cities.

Invented loyalty marketing
The group includes names like Curtis Carlson, who’s often remembered today as a hotelier (Radisson) but actually invented modern loyalty marketing in the 1930s with his Gold Bond stamps.

It includes Lee Lynch, who built Carmichael Lynch into a premier national ad agency (he’s also MinnPost’s board chair). And Raymond O. Mithun, who founded Campbell-Mithun at age 23 in the depths of the Great Depression and quickly took his agency to a dominance in the local ad rankings that it still enjoys today.

The honor roll also includes everyone right now who’s running a marketing, PR, interactive or promotions agency in the Twin Cities — and there are scores of them. These entrepreneurs truly live by their wits — their livelihood depends on a daily tightrope walk that combines a creative spark with the intense, detailed work needed to bring that spark to life.

I want to give a nod to another Minneapolis advertising great whose memory has faded with time. I hadn’t heard of him until I started to do some research for this piece, and yet he clearly laid the groundwork more than 100 years ago for all those who followed.

Studied advertising
His name was Mac Martin. A native of Wabasha, Minn., he graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1903 and the following year founded the Mac Martin Advertising Agency (not related to Martin/Williams, currently a leading Minneapolis agency).

Vintage Munsingwear ad

Martin taught at the U of M for many years and wrote extensively on his theories of advertising. He was among the first nationally to study advertising in a systematic, academic way.

Take a look at one of his booklets, published in 1914 by the University of Minnesota extension service. It’s fascinating to read Martin’s examination of basic subjects that we all take for granted today: motivating consumers to buy; using package design to increase the appeal of a product; research and planning before launching a campaign.

The advertising clients he mentions — Cream of Wheat, Munsingwear, Occident Flour — remind us that Minneapolis was also blessed with visionary companies that saw the value of national marketing and branding.

To Martin and Fallon and the many entrepreneurs and clients currently active on the Twin Cities marketing scene, thanks. You’ve done more than any sports team ever could to make us more than a cold Omaha.

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Susan Herridge on 03/08/2010 - 12:54 pm.

    Its a shame not to mention Nancy Rice, who was one of the founders of Fallon McElligott Rice, as it was know when it started. I know she didn’t stick around long enough to build it into the powerhouse that it became, but she definitely contributed to the creative vision and early execution. In honor of Kathryn Bigelow’s groundbreaking win last night, lets not forget Nancy’s groundbreaking contribution.

  2. Submitted by John Reinan on 03/08/2010 - 02:31 pm.

    I haven’t forgotten Nancy or Tom McElligott. But as you point out, Nancy (and Tom) didn’t stick around as long as others. Thanks for mentioning her, though — she definitely helped set the early tone for Fallon’s successful direction.

  3. Submitted by myles spicer on 03/08/2010 - 11:08 pm.

    Having spent 45 years in the ad agency business (as owner of several agencies over the years, and retired about 10 years ago)in our great Twin Cities, I can tell you that the profession is not only creative and exciting, but highly ethical as well. It is a mostly misunderstood buisness, and frequently in polls ad folks rate slightly below car salesmen and barely above Dick Nixon. But that is simply not true. It’s not just that ad agencies are generally populated with skilled and quality people, but hyperbole was never a very effective strategy.

    Additionally, the Twin Cities are often underestimated as a fabulous place to build an ad agency. We not only have 15 Fortune 500 companies here, but a myriad of fine, strong, growing mid sized companies as well. I also owned an agency in San Diego, and the business opportunities in that market were minisucle to our Twin Cities (but it sure was nice to go there in the winter).

    As I look back on my career, I would not have changed a thing; and the relationships I built within the profession over the years were wonderful, and gratifying. Running my own successful business…enjoying a profession where creativity is a premium…having lasting relationships (and friendships) with staff and clients…living in one of the nicest cities in the land. That’s as good as it gets.

  4. Submitted by John Reinan on 03/09/2010 - 09:18 am.

    Myles, thanks for joining in. Knowing your background, I was hoping you might have a comment. Glad to see that we agree about this great city and its opportunities.

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