After years of being amazed at what was on the net, I’m now increasingly surprised at what’s not.
Three years ago I was trawling for a particular ad of Tom’s, not only couldn’t I find it I could barely find any of his work.
Outraged, I gathered together as much of his work as I could lay my hands on and put out a post called ‘Hands Up Who’s Heard Of Tom McElligott’.
I was trying to be snarky and ironic, like you may write ‘Hands Up Who’s Heard Of John Lennon?’.
Two things happened:
1. An enormous amount of people checked it out, 65k.
Most had never heard of him, he was being shared and referred to on Twitter and Facebook a ‘really cool pre-internet guy’.
2. A few members of his department got in touch to point out that some of the ads featured were not under Tom’s watch, they were overseen by Pat Burnham.
Then Pat Burnham emailed me; I opened it cautiously.
‘Just wanted to get in touch to say thank you, I really enjoyed your blog post, best, Pat.’
It made me feel bad.
What can I do to make amends? Interview him, I’d never done it before but it seemed like a good thing to do.
I’ve now posted about 50 interviews.
So it feels appropriate that Tom is my first podcast interview.
He hasn’t given an interview for 25 years and said he doesn’t plan on giving one on the next 25.
I Hope you enjoy listening to him as much as I did.
(VFTL? It stands for ‘Voices From The Loft’, it’s a podcast.)
LUNCH HOUR Ltd.
There is more of Tom’s Fallon McElligott and post-Fallon McElligott at a previous post here: https://davedye.com/tag/tom-mcelligott/
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28 responses to PODCAST: Tom McElligott.
Again. Very refreshing and insightful. Nice hearing your voice Dave 🙂 Happy new year!
Thanks for the post Dave, it was nice seeing his work again.
You’re welcome Emmanuel & Digital Art Director, (Or should I call you ‘Digi’ for short?). Dx
Not knowing who Tom is, is like not being able to write long copy or scamp up an ad.
Unthinkable, yet seemingly acceptable.
Thanks for another fantastic post.
To be fair to those who hadn’t heard of Tom, he left the business 25 years ago, they probably alsoi haven’t heard of Boyz II Men, Sir Mix-a-Lot and Right Said Fred either.
…thanks for that Dave.
To us Fallon McElligott was the benchmark when we set up Simons Palmer DENTON blah & blah back in ’88.
I remember having all of their big award winners printed out and up on the walls of our first office.
We followed their lead and tried doing press ads for our favourite sandwich shop and a local magazine but of course our ads didn’t compare to theirs and disappeared without a trace (it really is harder than it looks kids).
Seeing all that work again has put me in the mood to set up a new agency…have I left it too late?
It’s not too late Mark, it’s a perfect storm for your new creative start-up. Dx
Dave, this is a great. What a wonderful interview and a great man. Thanks.
He was brilliant.
(Hope you’ve got some good addiction stories too?)
Working on it!
That was a bit special. Some really touching moments in there Dave.
Thank you for taking the time to do this.
When I was a student, I remember regularly going to my local library and hoarding all the advertising award annuals for myself. Luckily, some smart person thought that purchasing D&AD and One Show annuals was a good idea (especially considering the fact that I came from a town with hardly any advertising agencies in it).
After consistently coming across his work in the One Show annuals, Tom became the first writer that I became a fan of (the second being David Abbot). I spent many hours in that library, head down squinting closely at the pages of those annuals attempting to read the tiny copy that Tom wrote in a desperate attempt to learn (and hopefully emulate) his craft.
I learnt a lot. I failed to emulate. But I still love his work.
What a legacy.
What a wonderful interview. It was great hearing Tom’s voice again. I do miss him and my days working for him in that blue octagon on Fourth Ave South. I learned everything from him. I hope he is happy. It sure sounds like he is.
Great interview Dave. He’s such a Minnesotan. Great stuff.
Smart guy. Great talent. I’m lucky I got to work with Tom early in my career. It was a pleasure to hear his voice again.
What a treat. I got into the business because of Tom and his great agency. That simple. I thought I could die a happy man if I could somehow get hired as a writer there. In my second year in the business, that dream came true. The only problem–Tom had just left the agency and I wouldn’t get a chance to work with, or meet my hero. In a small way, this interview makes up for it. Thank you, Dave!
My pleasure Doug, hope you enjoyed listening to it as much as I enjoyed recording it. Best, D.
Listening to this made my day. Thanks for all your efforts to make it happen, Dave. It was wonderful to hear Tom’s voice and laughter. The legacy of Tom and Pat Fallon makes one proud to be a native Minnesotan. It was my good fortune to be a Fallonite from 1984-1997. Best gig ever.
Glad you enjoyed it.
Fallon ’84-’97? – Very jealous.
Great to hear a fellow Fargo-native tell his story of the 80’s and 90’s adworld. I was a graphic designer and ad guy during his heyday and loved the Minneapolis School of Advertising style. He inspired many folks in his hometown (and the rest of the world) to go into advertising and do good work. I think his style could come back into vogue for select audiences of intelligent brands. I’m banking on it. Thanks for the wonderful interview of one of my heroes. So cool to hear he’s a happy camper in the end.
Glad you enjoyed it Mark, I had a few chats with Tom and he always sounded very chilled and laughed easily. Best, D.
Hi. Great work, Dave. Is the podcast available on any pod subscribiption services? I can’t find it on Acast or Overcast?
Very nice interview. I worked for Tom (and Ron Anderson) at Bozell & Jacobs back in the late seventies. Then I went on to head my own agency for 20 years. Those were the days!
Hi Dave, thanks for your podcast.
I’m pretty sure that Bernbach is the writer of the ad “Think small”
I just found this podcast and really enjoyed it. I became a copywriter in the late ’80s, and reading the awards books with all those great McElligott print ads was a master class in wit and style. It makes me sad that the level of craft I aspired to has all but disappeared. I never thought “copywriter” would go the way of archaic career fields like the cooper or the wheelwright.
I’d been at Fallon for about 7 or 8 years and we were filming a Buddy Lee project and using MCAD as one of our locations and my partner happened to spot Tom out of the corner of his eye. Turns out Linda Rice had asked him to come meet with her students. Well, Scott and I weren’t going to miss a chance to meet the man responsible for our dream jobs at our dream agency. I can’t remember being more nervous to meet somebody and he couldn’t have been more gracious. Funny how those with the most right to be arrogant almost never are. If they ever build a Mt. Rushmore for advertising, I’d push to just have his head up there four times. Thanks for this, Dave. Priceless.
Thank you for this wonderful interview. Though I worked for Tom as an art director at Fallon McElligott Rice for two years, his reclusive nature made him a closed book. This conversation explained so much about a man many put on a pedestal but few understood. Even though I’m long out of advertising, Tom and the many brilliant people he hired had an immeasurable influence on me and my work, both in advertising and publishing. As Tom would say on the rare occasion we’d show him a concept he liked, “book ’em, Dan-O!”
Hey Tom, glad you enjoyed it.
I was delighted Tom agreed to do it, I thought he’d be grouchy, I couldn’t have been more wrong (as you probably heard).
You were one of the guys whose work I stared at when in the shonky little agency I started out in, trying to figure out how humans beings did such cool, clever, witty ads.
Weirdly, when you were commenting I was scanning in a whole bunch of your WSJ tear-sheets some kind fellow from your side of the pond sent me. (Thanks BB.)
You haven’t got any more have you? Always useful for these kind of posts.
(If you have, I’m on firstname.lastname@example.org).
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