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.


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

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

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. Dan is also a columnist for and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.