Remembering Tom McElligott And A Classic Style Of Advertising

Over at his Stuff From The Loft blog, Dave Dye asks, “Hands up Who’s Heard of Tom McElligott?”

I’ll bet 97% of today’s advertising students and people with less than 10 years of experience in the business haven’t. Tom McElligott was one of the driving forces behind Fallon McElligott Rice (now just Fallon) and a man who was a definer of what some people called the “Minneapolis style” — where clever headlines were neatly juxtaposed against the right visuals to make impactful print ads.

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Dave’s blog is a great compendium of classic Tom McElligott ads. And it’s also a bit of a revealing time capsule. Because these days most people don’t comb through dusty CAs or One Show books for inspiration anymore. And much of the work that ran pre-web, particularly print, isn’t scanned or cataloged, so you won’t find it on the common sites people use to see great advertising, like adsoftheworld.com.

Clearly, the art direction is a bit dated looking, but is there anyone even using this work as a reference for what great advertising should be now? In today’s digital world there’s more emphasis on being clear rather than being clever. Young folks in advertising don’t learn to do work like Tom McElligott’s, so it’s no coincidence that newspapers and magazines have dull, lifeless ads in them, and writing on the web is far more pedestrian.

Will great headline-driven advertising have a renaissance? I doubt it. There’s no going back. At least we have blogs like Dave’s to occasionally look back.

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for TalentZoo.com. Dan published the best of his TalentZoo.com columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.

  • http://www.zenironman.com/ Brian Dooley

    Do you think that this concept is illustrated with sites like Upworthy and Buzzfeed? I understand the difference between click-bait and cleverness, but is this worthy of mentioning as a marriage between Minneapolis-Style and other current influences?

    • DanGoldgeier

      I think Buzzfeed and Upworthy are way more matter-of-fact with their headlines, and don’t rely on visuals as devices to complete the picture; rather, they mirror the headline. There’s a certain rhythm to McElligott’s writing that works much better as print advertising than it would in a web format.

  • http://www.GentleRainMarketing.com Mark Satterfield

    It’s so true that we often overlook the genius of the classic ad people. For example, I think most of us (myself included) who are focused primarily on digital marketing, fail to think through how headlines and pictures can work better hand in glove. However, I do believe that headline advertising never really went out of style. For example, when we create lead magnets (reports, white papers, videos, ect.) their success lives and dies with the headline. All the more reason for me to dig into my old files for great inspiration and copy ideas.