Hands up who’s heard of Tom McElligott?

He should be better known.
He ushered in a new, sassier way of talking.

His work felt like it was written by a very smart lawyer with a wicked sense of humour.
He influenced a generation.
But there’s almost no evidence of his existence on the internet.
In a Stalinesque style purge, Lurzer’s Archive have retouched the Fallon McElligott work to read Fallon. 
Even the publishers of Luke Sullivan’s great book “Hey Whipple” seem not to know him:
Screen shot 2014-02-14 at 15.20.08
I can’t find a lot of information on him out there, so it’s difficult to offer up too much, and I certainly can’t vouch for the chronology of the work below, but I’ll have a first stab and update it if complaints come in. (If anyone does know more, has higher res images or can spot errors please get in touch or leave a comment.)

So here’s what I know:
Minneapolis legend Ron Anderson hired Tom to work with him at Bozell’s.
They did some very good, very Fallon McElligott style work together:
Tom McElligott %22United Way. Bozell

Screen shot 2014-03-06 at 15.56.45 Screen shot 2014-03-06 at 15.58.51 Screen shot 2014-03-06 at 15.56.17 Screen shot 2014-03-06 at 15.54.52lhl-symsScreen shot 2014-03-06 at 15.55.55Screen shot 2014-03-06 at 15.57.16 Screen shot 2014-03-06 at 15.57.08 Tom McElligott, 'Crowded' - Minnesota.Nancy Rice-01 Tom McElligott, 'Graffiti' - Minnesota.Nancy Rice-01 Tom McElligott, 'Running Water' - Minnesota.Nancy Rice-01Screen shot 2014-03-06 at 15.57.28Screen shot 2014-03-06 at 15.58.16 Screen shot 2014-03-06 at 15.58.26

Whilst at Bozell, Tom started taking on freelance projects with the young, Head of Media Research at another Minneapolis agency, Martin/Williams.
They called it Lunch Hour Ltd.
Tom McElligott, Pontillo's - 'Cut It'-01 Tom McElligott, Ki Clayton - 'Material'-01 Tom McElligott, Ki Clayton, 'Material',-01

They got so busy, they took it to the next level, setting up an agency in 1981, along with Art Director Nancy Rice.

This is their first ad.
It ran on August 3, 1981, in the Minneapolis Star and Minneapolis Tribune.

Fallon McElligott, House ad-01
Bob MacDonald spotted it.

Fortunately for the new agency Bob MacDonald was the Marketing Director of ITT Insurance. 
Even more fortunately, Bob couldn’t find an agency who would ‘make the big insurance companies look like shit’.
They were awarded the account and Tom started making the big insurance companies look like shit. Fallon McElligott, ITT 'Fat'-01 Fallon McElligott, ITT 'Waists'-01 Fallon McElligott,ITT 'Cartoon'-01Fallon McElligott, ITT 'Rice'-01
F Mc; 300-01
They start picking up local accounts, very local;  hair salons, lumber yards, no account appears to be too small.
Or another way to look at it, and my guess is it’s nearer the truth; no opportunity to create, however small the budget, was turned away.

4.8621c_l 4.8627d_lFallon McElligott, Vander 'Two Times'-01Fallon McElligott, KSJN 'Brains'-01
Fallon McElligott 'Einstein'-01Fallon McElligott 'Bride Of Frankenstein' -01Fallon McElligott 'Coin'-01
Fallon McElligott '£ Stooges'-01Fallon McElligott, 7th South 'Medussa'-01

Fallon McElligott, 7th South 'Nixon'-01Fallon McElligott, Transtop 'How much'-01Fallon McElligott, 'Stop A Bus'-01
3.8801c_lTom McElligott, PR Project 'Why?'-01 Tom McElligott, PR Project 'Money'-01 Tom McElligott, PR Project 'Indicates'-01 Fallon McElligott, Hockey 'USA v USSR'-01Fallon McElligott 'Chiropractor' 1-01 Fallon McElligott,, First Tennessee 'Oils'-01Fallon McElligott, MAX 'Letter'-01 Fallon McElligott, Allnet 'Record'-01Tom McElligott,  'Obscene'-01Tom McElligott, PR Project 'Skeleton'-01 Tom McElligott, PR Project 'Naked'-01 Tom McElligott, PR Project 'Mary'-01Adler3 Adler2 Adler1

Fallon McElligott, Murray's 'Knife'-01Fallon McElligott, Murray's 'Excuse'-01Fallon McElligott, Murray's 'Match books'-01Fallon McElligott, Murray's 'Fixtures'-01Fallon McElligott, Murray's, 'Institution', -01-01Fallon McElligott, Murray's, 'Vietnam'-01Tom McElligott, Murray's 'Juicy', -01F Mc; ll256-01Fallon McElligott, Continental 'Plastic'-01Fallon McElligott, Continental Illinois 'Note'-01Fallon McElligott, MedCentres 'Which 20%' -01Fallon McElligott, First Tennesee-01
Fallon McElligott, Minnesota Hockey 'Defense-01

Fallon McElligott - Country Cottage 'Poo' -01Fallon McElligott 'Icecream' -01Fallon McElligott, AMF 'Handles'-01Fallon McElligott, AMF 'add 2lbs'-01Fallon McElligott, Mr Coffee 'Tea'-01
Fallon McElligott 'Pytka'-01
Fallon McElligott, Dublin 'Lion'-01F Mc; 288-01
Fallon McElligott, Minnesota Zoo 'Monkeys'-01Fallon McElligott,Minnesota Zoo 'Emissions'-01Fallon McElligott, Gym 'Mountains'-01

  Fallon McElligott, Casting 'Huggies'-01 Fallon McElligott, Casting 'Snow'-01Fallon McElligott, Casting 'Weights'-01
Fallon McElligott, Wimbledon It Ain't'-01Fallon McElligott 'Da Moon' -01Fallon McElligott, W32, 'Young Clint'-01Fallon McElligott 'See What The Networks'' -01Fallon McElligott 'Underground'-01
Fallon McElligott, KRON 'Birds'-01Fallon McElligott,W32, 'Grant'-01Fallon McElligott, W32 'Cut'-01Fallon McElligott,W32 'Plot'-01Fallon McElligott,W32 'Train Robbery'-01

Fallon McElligott, %22Jane Fonda%22-01 Fallon McElligott, W32 'Hitchcock Cast'-01Fallon McElligott, W33, 'Dallas'-01 Fallon McElligott, W32, 'Assembled'-01 Fallon McElligott, W32, 'Woody Allen'-01 Fallon McElligott, W32, 'Jet'-01Fallon McElligott 'White Sox'-01 WFLD3
Fallon McElligott, Starkey 'More than'-01
The first time I saw the name Fallon McElligott was underneath these ads, in The One Show.

They’d be bold for a beer, but for a religion?
Also, who knew The Episcopal Church guys were such a fun bunch, maybe I should sign up?
Fallon McElligott, Episcopelian, 'Singles Bar'-01Fallon McElligott, Episcopalian 'Son of'-01Fallon McElligott, Episcopalian 'Bomb' -01Fallon McElligott, Episcopalian 'TV'-01Fallon McElligott, Episcopelian, 'Strong Men'-01   Fallon McElligott, Episcopal 'Carson'-01 Fallon McElligott, Episcopal 'TV'-01 Fallon McElligott, Episcopalian 'Lions'-01 Fallon McElligott, Episcopal, 'Taped'-01Fallon McElligott, Episcopelian, 'Contrary'-01Fallon McElligott, Episcopal, 'Tablets'-01Fallon McElligott, Episcopalian, 'Lions'-01Fallon McElligott, Episcopal, 'Pastures'-01Fallon McElligott, Episcopalian %22Santa'-01Fallon McElligott, Episcopalian 'Doubts'-01Fallon McElligott, Episcopalian '1500 Years'-01Fallon McElligott, Episcopalian, 'Sustain'-01 Fallon McElligott, Episcopalian, 'Garden Variety'-01 Fallon McElliigott, Episcopalian, 'Vicious'-01 Fallon McElligott, Loaves & Fishes'-01 Fallon McElligott, Episcopelian, 'Henry 8th'-01 Fallon McElligott, Episcopelian 'Desciples'-01 Fallon McElligott, Episcopelian 'Cake'-01 Fallon McElligott, Episcopal 'How many'-01Fallon McElligott, Episcopalian, 'Easter'-01 Fallon McElligott, 'Speech'-01 Fallon McElligott, 'Mercedes'-01

Fallon McElligott, 'Gold Speech'-01Fallon McElligott, God The Client-01
The name Fallon McElligott started to turn up more and more, especially in books like the One Show.
4.8624a_lFallon McElligott, U.S. West 'Backwards'-01Fallon McElligott, U.S. West 'Carry'-01

Fallon McElligott, U.S. West 'Growth'-01 4.8613a_lFallon McElligott, Bob Lambert 'Hitler'-01Fallon McElligott, Bob Lambert 'Viet Cong'-01Fallon McElligott, Bob Lambert 'Schnozzle Durante'-01
People were taking notice of this agency in an odd location beginning with ‘M’.

One of them was Ed McCabe.
%22I wish I'd done That%22 Ed McCabe, McElligott-01Fallon McElligott, D'AMICA 1-01Fallon McElligott, D'AMICA 2-01Fallon McElligott, D'AMICA 3-01
They did this ad for the Art Centre.

But all their work seemed to be infused with this attitude.Fallon McElligott %22adcentre%22-01Fallon McElligott, Rick Dublin, 'Dull'-01Fallon McElligott, 'Squeezed Type'-01Fallon McElligott, News Centre 11 'Monuments'-01Fallon McElligott, Minnesota Federal 'Toasters'-01

Love this.Fallon McElligott 'No Penis'-01
It looks horrific, sad and disturbing.
It’s an announcement card for the birth of someones daughter.Fallon McElligott Vander 'Dog'1-01

Fallon McElligott, Vander, 'Tomato'-01Fallon McElligott, Vander, 'Where', -01Fallon McElligott, Vander, 'Where Speakers', -01
Fallon McElligott, Anti Smoking 'Exhale'-01Fallon McElligott, Anti Smoking 'First Sign'-01
The Hush Puppies campaign.
Very influential at the time.
Fallon McElligott, Hush Puppies, 'Casual'-01Fallon McElligott, Hush Puppies, 'Corporate'-01Fallon McElligott, Hush Puppies, 'Classic'-01Fallon McElligott, Hush Puppies, 'Sophisticated'-01Fallon McElligott, Hush Puppies 'Sporting'-01Fallon McElligott, Hush Puppies, 'Ventilated'-01Fallon McElligott, Hush Puppies %22Baby'-01glasnost_ad_smtbimage_4212

3.8715a_l 3.9117a_l
But they didn’t just do humour, they tackled difficult subjects head on.

 Fallon McElligott, The Children's Defense 'Pimple'-01 Fallon McElligott, The Children's Defense 'Period'-01 teenpreg1Screen shot 2014-03-02 at 08.59.28Fallon McElligott, 'Warranty'-03

Fallon McElligott, Child Defense 'Sleep Around'-013.9118b_l3.9118c_lScreen shot 2014-03-04 at 08.54.20Screen shot 2014-03-04 at 08.54.47Fallon McElligott, The Children's Defense'Grounded For'-01Fallon McElligott, 'Defense Fund 'One On The Left'-01Fallon McElligott, 'Defense Fund '125, 000'-01Fallon McElligott, 'Defense Fund 'Subtract'-01

The Penn campaign.

(I remember drooling over the croissant execution at the time.)
Fallon McElligott, Penn 'Croisant'-01Fallon McElligott, Penn 'Snake'-01
Fallon McElligott,Penn 'Canadian Open'-01


They made a convincing case for Advertising itself.
Fallon McElligott, Advertising, 'Shaving'-01Fallon McElligott, Advertising, 'Icecubes'-01F Mc; 2ood6-01Fallon McElligott 'Newspaper'-01Fallon McElligott, Advertising, 'Machine'-01Fallon McElligott, Advertising, '5c'-01

There were also a lot of these Wall Street Journal ads, unfortunately this is the only one I can find.
I’m sure they influenced The Economist campaign.
At the moment, this is the only one I can lay my hands on.
Fallon McElligott, WSJ 'Translate'-01Fallon McElligott, WSJ 'Get It'-01Fallon McElligott, WSJ 'Fast Track'-01Fallon McElligott, Wall Street Journal, 'On The Way'-01 Fallon McElligott, WSJ 'Diary'-01Fallon McElligott, WSJ 'Trains'-01Tom McElligott, Wall Street Journal 'Title'-01Fallon McElligott, Wall St Journal, 'Weekly'-01Fallon McElligott,Wall Street Journal 'Country'-01Fallon McElligott, Wall Street Journal 'Fabric' -01Fallon McElligott, WSJ 'President' -01
Fallon McElligott, Time-01
Then the Rolling Stone campaign.

The Rolling Stone’s problem was that it struggled to sell its ad space, advertisers thought it’s readers were hippies.
The solution was so simple.
So smart.
So unlike any other ads at the time.
Fallon McElligott, Rolling Stone 'Hippe'-01 Fallon McElligott, Rolling Stone 'Coins'-01 Fallon McElligott, Rolling Stone 'Shoes'-01Fallon McElligott, Rolling Stone 'CamperVan'-01Fallon McElligott, Rolling Stone 'Pill'-01 Fallon McElligott, Rolling Stone 'Bra'-01 Fallon McElligott, Rolling Stone 'Barbers' -01 Fallon McElligott, Rolling Stones 'Tyre'-02Fallon McElligott, Rolling Stone 'Soap'-01

A cool scratch and sniff version. (I’m guessing smelly & fresh?)
Fallon McElligott, Rolling Stone 'Sniff'-01 Fallon McElligott, Rolling Stone, 'Brownies'-01 Fallon McElligott, Rolling Stone 'Racquet'-01 2.8707b_lFallon McElligott, Rolling Stone 'Post It'-01
Fallon McElligott, Rolling Stone 'Symbols'-01Fallon McElligott, Rolling Stone 'Keg'-01
Fallon McElligott, Rolling Stone 'Map'-01

   Fallon McElligott, Rolling Stone 'Mousse'-01Fallon McElligott- Rolling Stone %22Mouse%22-01Fallon McElligott- Rolling Stone %22Surf%22 Fallon McElligott- Rolling Stone %22Wolfe%22-01Fallon McElligott, Rolling Stones 'Naked'-01Fallon McElligott, Rolling Stone 'Grape Nuts'-01
It felt new, neither headline or visual lead, it had its own structure.

As did the Jim Beam campaign.
I’d not seen a campaign  like this; A list of dates and ephemera.
As much social commentary as advertising.
But it was great advertising, positioning Jim Beam as a classic.
Not only was it incredibly distinctive, it engaged and made you think.
It’s the kind of work that could give advertising a good name.
It wasn’t done by hucksters, it was done by smart guys having fun.
I presume this was the first one. It’s neat…
Fallon McElligott, Jim Beam 'Drink DPS'-01JIM BEAM 'Drinks' adFallon McElligott, Jim Beam 'Haircut'-01Fallon McElligott, Jim Beam 'Trousers*'-01
…but who’d have thought it would’ve lead to all these?

Fallon McElligott, Jim Beam 'Stadiums'-01 Fallon McElligott, Jim Beam 'Hands'-01 Fallon McElligott, Jim Beam 'Signs'-01 Fallon McElligott, Jim Beam 'Badges'-01Fallon McElligott- Jim Beam %22Balls%22 Fallon McElligott- Jim Beam %22Barbeque%22   JimBeam_Lures JimBeam_Pets Fallon McElligott- Jim Beam %22Pants%22 -01JimBeam_Sandwiches Fallon McElligott- Jim Beam %22Playbills%22 -01tumblr_mzil336MWq1rpgpe2o5_r1_1280
Fallon McElligott, Jim Beam 'Salt & Pepper'-01Fallon McElligott, Jim Beam 'Graffitti'-01Fallon McElligott, Jim Beam 'Lipstick'-01Fallon McElligott, Jim Beam 'Made In...'-01
Fallon McElligott, Jim Beam 'Balls'-01Jim Beam _Golf_
Fallon McElligott- Jim Beam %22Games%22
Fallon McElligott-Jim Beam %22Xmas%22
They did a Christmas version.Screen shot 2014-02-15 at 12.17.37Fallon McElligott, Jim Beam 'Name Tags' -01
They subverted the whole campaign idea with this responsible drinking ad.Screen shot 2014-02-15 at 12.20.05

They tackled a different aspect of drinking with the campaign for Windsor Canadian,
perfectly capturing the emotion of that first drink of the evening.
Fallon McElligott, Windsor Canadian 'Trolley'-01 Fallon McElligott, Windsor Canadian 'Tube'-01 Fallon McElligott, Windsor Canadian 'Tyres'-01Fallon McElligott- Windsor Canadian %22Boxes%22 Fallon McElligott-Windsor Canadian %22Cement%22$_3 $_58

As well as coming up with distinctive, own-able, visual devices for campaigns, they also did the same with words.
The way this Lee campaign is written looks familiar now, it wasn’t at the time.
Fallon McElligott, Lee 'Nails'-01 Fallon McElligott, Lee 'Places To Go'-01 Fallon McElligott, Lee 'Police'-016.8849b_l Fallon McElligott, Lee '36'-01Fallon McElligott, Lee 'Separate'-01Fallon McElligott, Lee 'Private'-01

Fallon McElligott, Lee 'Moving Out'-01
Fallon McElligott, Lee, 'Better Jeans'-01Fallon McElligott, Lee, '10000000'-01Fallon McElligott, Lee, 'How Jeans Companies'-01Lee1

Tom McElligott, Lee 'Blue, Blue'-01Fallon McElligott, ACA JOE 'Shrink' -01

They enlisted Stevie Wonder in the war against Drink Driving.
Very ballsy.
Fallon McElligott, 'Stevie Wonder'-01

They went visual with Power Pack.

Their work started to get National attention.
The clients they attracted got bigger, but the way they treated them stayed the same; ‘We don’t research creative  work.’
They won Penn tennis balls and produced this:


They won Porsche, and with a few black letters and a pack shot, gave it attitude.
(If you’ve never tried writing three word headlines, try it, it’s really hard.)
Fallon McElligott, Porsche 'It beats'-01Fallon McElligott, Porsche 'Unclogs'-01Fallon McElligott, Porsche 'Fire'-01Fallon McElligott, Porsche 'Decals'-01Fallon McElligott, Porsche 'Corvettes'-01 Fallon McElligott, Porsche 'Children'-01 Fallon McElligott, Porsche 'Nothing'-01 Fallon McElligott, Porsche 'Porsches'-01 Fallon McElligott, Porsche 'Weld'-01 Fallon McElligott, Porsche 'Maybe not'-01Fallon McElligott, Porsche 'Rocket Scientists'-01 Fallon McElligott, Porsche 'Compromise'-01Fallon McElligott, Porsche  'Compete'-01Fallon McElligott, Porsche 'Ivery Tower'-01porsche-010Fallon McElligott- Porsche %22Tabasco%22Fallon McElligott- Porsche %22Patents%22Screen shot 2014-03-04 at 08.58.15Fallon McElligott, Porsche 'Crazy'-01
Fallon McElligott, Porsche 'Leg'-01

INTERLUDE: Fallon were absolutely dominating the creative awards at this time,
One Show annuals of the period look like house brochures.
Here’s a mailer for a talk Tom gave around this time:
Tom McElligott Speaks ad-01

784f3e08f4eb32f48b0c034e98a21fb6 porsche_rs-america_ad_93 Fallon McElligott, Porsche 'Scream'-01Fallon McElligott, Porsche 'Dead'-0112aaf6ce93e26db117b1f3941394bf18Fallon McElligott, Porsche 'Pavlov'-01Screen shot 2014-03-04 at 08.58.32 tumblr_m7nq9vnT1f1r2nad3o1_500 tumblr_mw2p5mMWzK1sxs2gto1_500

Fallon McElligott, Porsche 'Airline'-01Fallon McElligott-Porsche %22Joneses%22-01Porsche3 Porsche5Fallon McElligott, Porsche 'Lid'-01Fallon McElligott, Porsche 'Solar'-01Fallon McElligott, Porsche 'Knuckles'-01
Pat Burnham, Carl Cedergren 'Stud fees'-01

They needed to hire to deal with all their new business.
Having exhausted the local supply of talented ad folk they’d have to attract talented people from the East and West Coast too. But why would they go to Minneapolis ?
Screen shot 2014-02-07 at 10.32.27Fallon McElligott, 'Liquor Account'-01
Fallon McElligott, House Ad-01

It’s possible Tom had just left by the time these ads ran, but they seem very Fallon McElligott.
Fallon McElligott- Horst %22Bow%22Fallon McElligott- Horst %22Ex%22 %22Fallon McElligott- Horst %22Hate%22

An awards show ran this ad when it was announced that Tom was leaving Fallon McElligott.
Fallon McElligott- House ad 2jpg
In 1987, this ad ran. Cheeky, but relatively harmless right?Fallon McElligott 'Bitch, Bitch...' -01
It was shown at a lecture on P.R. given by Fallon McElligott’s design arm; Duffy & Partners.
A member of the audience was offended, Dr. Neala Schleuning, so she sent Duffy & Partners a letter expressing her outrage.
In return she received the letter and photo below.
It’s signed by Duffy & Partners’ Charles S. Anderson, but its widely believed to be the work of Tom McElligott.
 dinkaletter dinka
Dr. Schleuning started showing the letter around to friends, then to the women’s consortium and they had contacts.
US WEST, a Fallon McElligott client, had a big active women’s union.

It snowballed, getting more and more exposure.
It became known as the “Dinka incident.”
First US WEST pulled its account.
Then Wall Street Journal, then FedEx.
It was a very expensive mistake, colleagues say it affected Tom very deeply.
He started to spend more time away from the agency and miss meetings.
Within a couple of years he quit.

I’d love to update this post, to show more work, make the chronology or information  more accurate, and simply to write more about Tom and Fallon McElligott.
So come on, get in touch, send me scans or leave comments, let’s make sure the next time someone searches ‘Tom McElligott’ on the internet, Google know where to find his work.

n.b. A bit more reading:

1. Tom & Ron Anderson get quizzed by Communication Arts.McElligott_Anderson article-page-001 McElligott_Anderson article-page-002 McElligott_Anderson article-page-003 McElligott_Anderson article-page-004 McElligott_Anderson article-page-005 McElligott_Anderson article-page-006 McElligott_Anderson article-page-007 McElligott_Anderson article-page-008 McElligott_Anderson article-page-009 McElligott_Anderson article-page-010

2. An interview with Inc. magazine from 1986: http://www.inc.com/magazine/19860701/1527.htmlA couple of articles

3. Introducing Tom and his gang to us Brits. (Direction magazine.)

Tom McEllgott. USATom McEllgott. Direction, 2

4. Catching up after he left Fallon McElligott. (Also Direction magazine.)
Tom McEllgott. Direction 3 Tom McEllgott. DirectonTom McEllgott. Directon 2

5.  A profile of Dean Hanson.
Dean worked very closely with Tom in the early years and created a lot of the great work in this post.
Fallon McElligott 'Dean Hanson Profile'-01Fallon McElligott, Readers Digest, Stevie Wonder-01

141 thoughts on “Hands up who’s heard of Tom McElligott?

    • Hey Kate,

      a) Why is the Fallon McElligott work now credited as Fallon?

      b) Is it the same reason Campbell Doyle Dye work is now credited Shop?

      c) Name the guilty.



  1. The first time I realised what real writing was all about was looking through those old One Show annuals and seeing his work. They were so much better than the equivalent D&AD tomes. As you say, it’s an absolute travesty how his name has seemingly been expunged from history.

      • I remember seeing every single one of those above in the annuals. But I actually photocopied two and they hung on my walls for years. “Getaway cars” and “Airline food” for Porsche. So simple, so perfect.

      • Yes, Bill Stenton (@Chiat Day) was the writer of “In Germany, there are no getaway cars”, the visual being a Porsche cop car in Germany. I always loved that outdoor board, too.

  2. I had the pleasure of working with Tom back in 1991. He was working on a pitch for US Sprint out of our Chiat/Day London office. Tom didn’t just “get” irony and nuance, he knew how to deliver it to US audiences. A quiet, almost reclusive man he projected an academic air. That is until he started writing – then he turned into an impish teenager. He sits at the top tier in the pantheon of Great Copywriters. No doubt about that.

  3. From memory. The headline:

    ‘One ride and you’ll understand why most rocket scientists are German.’

    The last line of copy, again from memory:

    ‘It’s true there may be vehicles capable of more prodigious performance that the Porsche 944 Turbo. But you won’t find them on this planet.’

    On the fora, Porsche drivers still remember it with affection and many would swap their eye-teeth for a copy.

  4. I confess. I’m a hoarder. My attic, basement and garage are filled with boxes of advertising ephemera. This post has inspired me to break open a few of them this weekend. When I find my McElligott file, I’ll scan and share contents with you, Dave.

  5. You’re welcome. Another headline for Porsche was ‘Compromise is for politicians’. Breaks the rule of three, but not by much.

  6. Brilliant post, and totally agreed.

    It always seemed so wrong that the man who created the reputation ended up losing it in the divorce settlement.

    I remember all those ads from my early days. They almost (almost) even got me interested in church.

    Sorry I can’t contribute any more to your collection. Can anyone at Fallon’s help???

  7. McElligott’s willingness to respect the reader’s intelligence while challenging the conventions of the time (remember, this was the 80s) really set his work apart.

    Keep in mind he also managed to attract talent when he served as Fallon McElligott’s CD. Hiring writers like Luke Sullivan certainly help any CD look good.

    McElligott was also a critic of a somewhat hidebound ad industry, and I have to wonder what he’d think of the current situation, where big ideas are considered passe.

    A little distressing to hear that work is being rebranded to reflect new agency names instead of the originals. I could see why the agency might want it that way, but it does a disservice to those who actually crafted the work.

  8. Great to see this work, thanks Dave. I agree TCWriter – intelligent, thoughtful, sassy – it treats the consumer with respect.

    One of the big worries I have about where the ad industry is going is that it seems to be reverting back to treating the punter like empty-headed morons.

    We’ve been through that already – then we had the creative revolution and people like Tom above, Bernbach, Koenig, Ally & Gargano which changed advertising for the better – we treated the consumer like they had a brain, with respect.

    Now advertising seems to have gone back to the brainless days again – all execution and no substance – with its dancing animals, cute kittens and brainless, twee emotional appeals begging to be ‘liked’ and ‘shared’ – this time with planners throwing around pop-phycology findings as justification.

    • “We’ve been through that already – then we had the creative revolution and people like Tom above, Bernbach, Koenig, Ally & Gargano which changed advertising for the better – we treated the consumer like they had a brain, with respect.

      Now advertising seems to have gone back to the brainless days again – all execution and no substance – with its dancing animals, cute kittens and brainless, twee emotional appeals begging to be ‘liked’ and ‘shared’ – this time with planners throwing around pop-phycology findings as justification.”

      Sadly, I couldn’t agree more. I thought the availability of affordable special effects would open up print and broadcast visuals, making it possible to create even better creative.

      Instead, we get talking animals.

      And copy — the stuff that delivers useful, actionable information to consumers — is now considered an impediment to global effectiveness and virality.

      Everything moves in cycles, and ad creative is no exception. But it’s sad to see that creative like Tom McElligott’s — which truly engaged the reader by making them implicit in the “aha” moment of the ad — is disappearing from our industry.

  9. I was editor of Design and Art Direction magazine, which ran the profile of Tom. He did seem quite studious and academic. But the spikiness of his writing reminded me of Tim Delaney at his best. The son of a Presbyterian minister, Tom was, as I recall, and he had an interesting take on the close connection between between advertising techniques and Christian prosyletising.

    As for thought-provoking copy disappearing from advertising…well it’s true, but that’s driven by the technology isn’t it? The kind of ads Tom made were wonderful, but looking at them now feels to me a bit like looking at a daguerrotype. Beautiful, but we’ve moved on.

    • As for thought-provoking copy disappearing from advertising…well it’s true, but that’s driven by the technology isn’t it? The kind of ads Tom made were wonderful, but looking at them now feels to me a bit like looking at a daguerrotype. Beautiful, but we’ve moved on.

      Yes, we have moved on, but I think it’s fair to ask what exactly have we moved on to?

      Technology has surely forced changes, but work like McElligott’s was never about Futura XBold headline type. It was about big ideas and speaking directly to the reader. I think the rise of new technology — and an ad industry chasing trends instead of results — have made it just a little bit too convenient to stop chasing big ideas, subbing 140-character drek instead.

      • I agree tcwriter, for me it’s not so much about what platform it’s delivered on, rather that it seems the industry is moving away from communicating with people towards something else that isn’t necessarily more powerful. I look at some of these ads, and if you overlook the stylistic elements that date them, I’m pretty sure they would stop people in their tracks today.

    • Hey Paul,

      Good to hear from you.
      I have to disagree with the view that we’ve moved on beyond Tom.
      Whatever the delivery system, it’s still just one human being trying to sell something to another.
      Take remarketing, technologically it’s amazing; ads for things you’re in the market for turn up in and around your searches.
      It’s like a salesman magically turning up on your doorstep only minutes after you’ve been discussing his product.
      But he still has to sell it, the coincidence is not enough to make most people part with their money.
      But most remarketing salesmen merely shout the name of their product and tell you it’s price.
      They don’t close the deal.
      Whether you are writing an ad or running a market stall, the best way to sell things is to make them attractive, desirable or useful.
      Tom McElligott was brilliant at that.
      Regardless or fashion, technology or media, he created ideas that made products desirable.
      That’s very rare in our business.
      Name the last piece of Porsche marketing that made you want one as much as those ads?

    • Tom was an admirer and acquaintance of Tim Delaney, they shared a love of early Ally/Scali work. I recall he especially liked Tim’s long copy Timberland ads.

      • Hey Dean,
        Great to hear from you.
        You were one of those guys whose name was splattered all over that early, great Fallon McElligott work, so I know you must have tonnes of good stuff that isn’t included in this post, even great stuff that didn’t make it out of FM Towers.
        Can I have it? I’ll insert it into the post as though it was always there.
        For a start, didn’t you do that great Penn Paris Open ‘Croissant’ ad?

  10. Hi Dave – great blog

    We worked together for a short time when you were at DHM, on the Land Securities account? I worked with Jorian mostly but the memory of your (slightly shambolic) pitch presentation with endless roll of paper with ideas on, still makes me chuckle.

    If I remember rightly I said you guys reminded me of Dudley Moore in Crazy People…we ended up doing some great work on the retail ads but the corporate ads didn’t finish so happily (too much meddling by the CEO and the board).

    Anyways I think there’s another Porsche 911 ad I remember (I was doing the below the line work with Porsche UK at the time) with the line – ‘A razor blade is not the best a man can get’…brilliant and pretty sure it was the same era.

    Great (amazing) blog btw


  11. One other campaign: the Timex ‘It takes a licking and still keeps ticking’. It featured people who’d survived amazing falls and weather conditions, modelling the watches. I think there are examples of the print out there.

    Also, didn’t they do the Penn tennis balls TV spot set on top of a skyscraper with the endline: ‘You’ve seen one you’ve seen them all’.

  12. Allow me to clear up a couple of items: The “Getaway Cars” outdoor board for Porsche was actually done by Chiat Day. If I’m not mistaken, by Dick Sittig and Andy DiJack. The “Small Penis” Porsche ad was done at DDB as a spoof ad to sell Joe Sciarrotta’s Porsche. Tom did not suffer a divorce.

  13. I have a fairly good collection of The Show books thanks to Mr. McElligott and all the talented ad folks from Minneapolis during my formative years as a copywriter. The work still holds up well today. And it’s still very funny. We all wanted to write with the same attitude.

  14. Mike Allen put me on to this link. I never worked at Fallon McElligott but Tom’s work (and the agency) was a great influence on me back then and still today. I also have a large collection of One Shows, CAs (that my wife wishes I would do something with) and Minneapolis Show books. I’ll look to see if there’s any more work that’s not already featured here. I do have a CA article on Tom in the early 80s while he was still at Bozell with Ron Anderson.

    • Hey Kevin,
      Would love that article if it’s digitised, also any Fallon McElligott stuff from those annuals that isn’t here.
      Abuse from my wife over the amount of work and books lead me to start blogging this stuff, so I feel your pain.

      • Dave, First, you owe me. I spent a good deal of time digging in my basement through boxes of CAs, One Shows, etc. for the article. My wife got all excited and thought I was planning to throw it all out. Then my scanner went down. I’ve got the article scanned and ready (I hope. I did PDFs not thinking about being in a blog.) Anyway, it’s Communication Arts, March/April 1978. Where should I send it? I also have a bunch of Show Annuals from Minneapolis that I pulled while I was in the dirt. kevin@TheInternationalOffices.com.

      • Whoa Kevin!

        I can’t tell you how excited I am. and grateful, dave@hellopeoplelondon.com

        I once got in contact with the Show and they sent me 4 annuals which are in storage, but come out within the next two weeks, so fingers crossed you have different years than me. (I can’t find The Show Annuals anywhere; Ebay, Abe or Amazon?)

        I am under constant pressure to chuck this stuff away too, the blog has helped me stave off my wife’s requests a bit longer.

        Thanks again,



  15. Don’t forget all of the amazing work he continued to create after leaving Fallon McElligott, such as the work he did at McElligott Wright Morrison White. He continued to inspire, mentor young writers, and win many awards long after he left Fallon.

  16. Thanks so much for this. I never met Tom McElligott, but I learned more about writing from that man than just about anyone. In art school in the late 80s and early 90s, every ad that jumped out from the annuals just happened to be from Fallon/McElligott. After so many of the great shops got mediocre in the 80s, the business was saved by shops like them.

    Such a pleasure reading all those ads, and thanks for showing some Jim Beam executions that I’d never seen before. Gold, all of them.

  17. I remember seeing many of these ads and I am from India.

    I remember one more in the ‘cruelty to animals’ series. loved it. it was something like, “It took them 20 years and $30m to discover that monkeys die when knocked on their heads.”

  18. Got to work with Tom on one project, after he left MWMW. For an invite to the AD/CC going away party for Nancy Rice. So simple. “Tom McElligott and Ron Anderson are leaving their agencies to join Nancy Rice”

  19. Dave, I worked at Fallon briefly back in the day.

    (Though sadly not the classic heyday.)

    Dean Hanson and Bob Barrie were two of the early greats there.

    They would probably know all there is to know about Tom McG.



        “Tom and I were working on a pitch for a work boots and clothing company. We were excited about TV ads that showed jeans being pulled apart by trucks and earth movers running over steel toed boots.

        We got the account and somebody told us we had to do retail price/item newspaper ads. I was groaning as Tom spoke up and said “That’s like two racehorses pulling a plow.” After I realized he was referring to us, we worked out a plan for the ads to be done by a small design firm.

        I had never been around thinking like that. For me, if a client wanted ads like that you did them.
        You didn’t like it but you did it. Same with brochures. As the years went by, the little design firm didn’t stay little.

        And we rocketed ahead without brochures and price/item ads. It was liberating.

        Pat Burnham.

        Sent from my iPad”

      • Cool.

        Say Toodlepip to Mark Goodwin for me if you see him.

        We went to the School of Communication Arts together many years ago.

        He’ll remember me. I was always drunk.


  20. Hey Dave,
    Thanx for this amazing collection. I grew up on the annuals and all the Fallon McElligott work. There are some superb in-house ads that are brilliantly written. One was for a weekend workshop ‘ Is Fallon McElligott destined to create history, or merely to repeat it ?’ . The other was ‘It’s a girl’. when Angela Dunkle { I think it was her) joined the all male creative department. Should get hold of some Murray’s stuff. A few were brilliantly written by Rod Kilpatrick.


  21. Hey, Dave, Check out my book, “How to Succeed in Advertising When All You Have Is Talent Second Edition,” (The Copy Workshop) — it has an entire chapter in it that details Tom’s story and provides his advice for success in the industry (and another one on Nancy Rice).

      • Two stories just in from Pat Burnham:
        “Dean mentioned how much Tom admired the Scali ads…One afternoon Tom told me had been out looking at new cars. He said he was sitting uncomfortably in a BMW. He didn’t fit in the car, and his head touched the ceiling but he kept telling himself it was “The Ultimate Driving Machine.”
        (Their tagline at the time).

        Bill Miller and I met with Rolling Stone Magazine for the first time to find out what they needed.
        Later at a coffee shop, Bill was so excited. He grabbed a napkin and drew the layout for Perception Reality. I looked at it and said “That’s nice Bill but I don’t have time to work on it.”
        What an idiot. Right?”

        Keep ’em coming Pat.

  22. This was great. Tom McElligot and his agency was inspirational. Sadly, many young people in advertising today have no idea about advertising history. They don’t even know who Bill Bernbach or Helmut Krone were.

  23. Pingback: Remembering Tom McElligott And A Classic Style Of Advertising - AdPulp

  24. Dave,

    Thanks for this. I also grew up as a young copywriter on Tom’s ads – especially the early porsche stuff. what’s amazing are all the writers and other creatives he influenced. Two key campaigns you’re missing are Continental Bank (Rod Kilpatrick CW – maybe Tom on the early ones) also the Time, Inc. campaign by Bob Barrie and Dean Buckhorn. You should definitely talk to those guys as they both spent years there soaking in the FM culture.

    • Thanks Ron,

      I’ll try and dig up the Continental stuff, I thought the Timex stuff was post Tom?
      Are you thinking of the ads that spotlighted an area of someones face?


  25. The Peta campaign work was written by Luke Sullivan and I believe it was art directed by Wayne Gibson when they were working at The Martin Agency. Luke did go on to work at Fallon later. Tom’s son Steven McElligott is a grad of the VCU Adcenter now Brandcenter. His dad traveled from Hawaii to visit with us and delivered a wonderful talk to our students.
    Steven is every bit as talented as his dad and has never seemed like a guy who wants the limelight.
    Interestingly, Wayne Gibson has been teaching visual storytelling and other visual courses at the Ad/Brandcenter for over five years.

    • Thanks Diane,

      Someone told me that Tom was also teaching now, have you heard that?
      (I’ll have to re-house those PETA ads if they are from the Martin agency.)

  26. I don’t know how true is the story that Tom McElligott initially rejected the perception/reality campaign . And then Bill Miller and Pat Burnham went through a 100 different ideas. Frustrated, they presented their original idea to Jan Wenner when Tom was out of town. Rest, as they say, is history.

  27. Dave…
    No question way too many people currently in the world’s second oldest profession know nothing about it’s founding revolutionaries. This also applies to your earlier post about Mary Wells. I have posted on this subject on AdScam on Monday. I have also pimped the shit out of your excellent blog… ‘Cos, as you know… I am a fucking prince.

  28. Helmut Krone (although he has that great book)
    Carl Ally & Amil Gargano
    George Lois
    Howard Gossage
    To name a few.
    We’ve tried to fill in a few gaps on these guys in the past on the Sell! Sell! blog, but they deserve more recognition, and especially to the new generation of ad creative. Come to think of it, especially the writers – they need these great writers to look up to I think in an era where copy and writing has been largely undervalued.

    • Thanks Vic,
      I know a lot about George Lois and Helmut Krone, I know a bit about Howard Gossage, he seems to be making a comeback.
      I know very little about Carl Ally & Amil Gargano.
      I nearly bought a book on them a few years ago, but didn’t want to speculate the $300 it cost at the time.
      Might look into them.


      • We have the Ally & Gargano book here if you’d like to borrow it Dave? I found it massively inspiring, a bloody great body of work, real fire-spitting creative, selling, advertising – and their approach seems the closest I’ve come across to what we’re trying to do at S!S! (for better or worse).

  29. Saw these some twenty years ago and still remember the headlines. Spectacular, evergreen stuff. You can still run them today.

  30. Pingback: the Idea Factory – Hands up who’s heard of Tom McElligott?

  31. Pingback: The Greatest American Copywriter Wasn’t a ‘Mad Man’ | Radio Free

  32. My first and perhaps most valuable lessons in advertising came from gaping at the fantastic work of Fallon McElligot in One Show Award Books that managed to reached the library of my agency in India back then. I still remember many of the ads you’ve managed to feature here. In fact, one of my favorites that isn’t was for Porsche that had the headline, “It’s like children. You can’t understand till you’ve had one.” Thanks Dave for this treasure chest.

  33. Pingback: NewsSprocket | The Greatest American Copywriter Wasn’t A ‘Mad Man’

  34. i’m surprised ‘who’s heard of tom mcelligott’ is a question but then i have a different, privileged perspective. when i was working at still price court mid-late eighties in london, we shared the virgin airlines account with ny agency levine huntley schmidt beaver. mr beaver was the chairman of the one club at the time, and came to visit our agency, carrying armloads of one club annuals. the other creatives didn’t care too much for the work (D&AD was the true bible) but I loved it. A piece for the Chicago TV station advertising a movie starring ‘a young clint eastwood’ with the headline ‘go ahead, make my lunch’ for some reason took me. Years later, on my first day at what was still Fallon McElligott, I looked up from my desk to see that very ad framed and hung outside my office door.
    thanks for the geeky thread dave. it’s fun reading all the way through.

  35. Hey Dave a friend forward your blog onto me. And I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I always looked forward to when the One Show annuals came out to see how deep the index was going to be for Fallon, McElligott. After working with inspiring people like Helmut Krone and Lee Clow, a lot of us at DDB and Chiat always looked at Tom McElligot as always moving the bar higher. Which always meant we’re in for another late night trying to be better. He not only motivated his agency but every other agency around. Anyone who can’t raise their hand, should at least extend their hand thanking you for this wonderful post.

    • Wow, that’s weird Jerry, I was just trying to collate all the ABC posters for a post,
      weren’t you creative director/writer on those? Do you have decent resolution files of them I could borrow?
      (I’ve managed to find about 6-8 executions, how many am I missing.)
      Thanks for your kind words.

  36. Thank you.
    Thank you.
    Thank you.
    My hero and inspiration finally has one damned page on the infinite web.
    Thank you.

    • You’re welcome Rich,
      It’s been amazing how many people have sent similar emails, some here some direct to my email.
      Great to know I’m not the only fanboy out there.

  37. Glad to see that Tom is finally getting recognition that he deserves. While most of the stuff posted here is work that Tom was the creative director on, in fairness Pat Burnham, who took over for some important years after Tom left, was the creative director on some of this work, at least he was on two of the campaigns of mine that I see here (Penn and Power Pack). Minor corrections aside, a nice article and wherever Tom is, I hope he’s happy.

  38. Pingback: You are the Brand RoundUp – GFY, The World Needs Editors, Google Trick, Advertising Great, More…

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