A tribute to legendary adman Pat Fallon

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Pat Fallon.
Pat Fallon.

David Lubars, Bill Westbrook, Robert Senior and others remember their "always profane, often profound" leader

Pat Fallon, co-founder of the celebrated Minneapolis agency that bears his name, passed away on Friday at the age of 70. The legendary adman leaves behind a legacy of innovative work and a community of advertising professionals who remember him as an iconic leader and champion of creativity. We asked those who worked with him to share their fondest memories of the man.

Bill Westbrook
No Fences Brand Consulting
(President and Creative Director 1992-1998)

At one time, many in the business world believed that Fallon’s advertising success was the result of its storied creative product. But they were wrong. Fallon has been a unique advertising agency from its beginning in 1981, primarily because of the unique personality of Pat Fallon. The creative product was, in reality, a byproduct.

He was by turns competitive, courageous, compassionate and hugely charming. He was loyal to his employees. Always profane, often profound. A principled and intuitive businessman in a world with too few of them. Pat’s values drove the agency to be successful, and the culture he built literally became an unfair advantage for the agency.


Bob Barrie
Partner, ECD
Barrie D'Rozario DiLorenzo
(Art Director 1983-2006)

While some great ads were created over the years under Pat's leadership, it is the social aspect of his agency, and Pat's driving role in it, that I will remember most. I met my wife at Fallon (as so many have) and made many great life-long friends who I see regularly to this day. I know that Pat took special pride in this amazing, enduring culture. It would be interesting to know how many children were born as a result of Pat's little "experiment on the prairie." Here's to the man who, along with Tom [McElligott], Nancy [Rice], Fred [Senn] and Irv [Fish], took great personal risks to create something so very special so many years ago. RIP, Pat.


Bruce Bildsten
CMO/Partner Faribault Woolen Mill Co.
(Executive Creative Director, 2010-2013, 1984-2005)

My nearly 30-year relationship with Pat Fallon began as a young copywriter reading a full-page ad in the Minneapolis Star Tribune; the bold manifesto that defined his new breed of agency. The sheer audacity of that opening ad is what defined Pat; he never backed down or held you back. We’re Fallon, dammit. But there was more than that. He was fiercely loyal and expected the same in return. He commanded and demanded respect from his clients and did not hesitate to walk if we didn’t get it. He not only knew every employee’s name that ever walked through his door, he made sure every single one sat at his dinner table. The talent he attracted was staggering. He not only changed my life; he changed the lives of thousands. He may not have been tall, but he certainly was a giant.


David Lubars
Chairman/Chief Creative Officer, BBDO Worldwide
(President of Fallon Worldwide, ECD of Fallon North America 1998-2004)

Pat: brilliant, charismatic, visionary. More Pat: driven, intense, full of piss and vinegar. And more Pat: charitable, caring, sacrificing. And, of course, this Pat: hilarious, biting, profane, outrageous. Finally, Pat: unique-est of the unique, I'll miss him.


Robert Senior
CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide
(Co-founded Fallon London in 1998)

Pat was a General, a Warrior, a Coach and the very best friend anyone could possibly wish for. He was a giant and a legend of advertising, and it was a true honor to have worked with Pat. But of all his extraordinary attributes, it was the twinkle in the eye I shall miss most. Pat knew how to laugh like no other.


Anne Bologna
Chief Strategy Officer, iCrossing
(President of Fallon New York 2003-2005; Head of Strategy NA, Fallon Worldwide 1989-2003)

Pat created an extraordinary agency built on vision, values and the power of great work. But what I learned from Pat is what it takes to sustain greatness. He was absolutely relentless about living the agency's values. He taught me how to spend time focused on what makes an agency great: the people, the culture, and the work. For example, by the time most of us got into the office every morning, Pat had already spent his wee hours writing emails to every client. I could never tell Pat anything about a client that he didn't already know. His deep connections helped us deliver better and more effective work. He also made a point every week to have lunch with the young people in the agency. He had a knack for getting people to tell the truth, so he always knew what was really going on. In fact, "Bone Honesty" was one of the agency's most potent core values. While the truth wasn't always easy to hear, Pat showed us the power of truth in making everyone and everything better.

If nothing else, Fallon stood for the relentless pursuit of greatness. Pat's impact on the industry is having influenced so many of us who continue to put a little bit of Fallon into our everyday lives. Thank you, Pat. Finally, you can rest in peace.

John Gerzema
Chairman & CEO, BAV Consulting
(Managing Partner, Fallon McElligott 1992-2004)

Picture a ringmaster of a gonzo circus of talented, dysfunctional yet supportive people. That was Pat and a company molded in his image. Pat’s mantra was family as business model: He believed that culture drove performance. To Pat, if people felt dignified they would do great work. Simple as that. Pat made decisions through the prism of character. Everything was about respect for the individual — regardless of, well, anything. People came before clients, and principles were worth more than profits. A lover of opera and WWF; a lyrical writer and charmingly profane — Pat was wonderfully flawed and enigmatic. But he taught us to embrace our imperfections and oddities and find love and support in others. Just like a family.

Sally Hogshead
CEO/Founder, Fascination Laboratory
(Copywriter at Fallon McElligott and Fallon McElligott Berlin, 1993-1996)

I remember my first day walking into the agency. I turned on my computer, and the agency's mission statement glowed on my screen: "To be the premier creative agency in the world that produces extraordinarily effective work for a short list of blue chip clients." I've never forgotten that. The agency lived and breathed that mission with creativity and strategy and guts and heart. It still shapes who I am today. Not a day goes by that I don't draw upon the principles and lessons I learned in that environment. Thank you, Pat Fallon.


Andy Azula
The Martin Agency
(Art Director Fallon McElligott 1993 – 1998)

The simplest way to say it is this: Pat Fallon gave me courage to fail. He encouraged it. He proved to us over and over and over that he had our backs. He didn’t just want great work. He wanted different work that happened to be great. Any idea that we came up with was endlessly campaignable – even to this day. That came from Pat.

However, the protection Pat gave us didn’t instill a sense of over-confidence and power — the ridiculously talented creatives at Fallon wouldn’t allow for that anyway. Instead what we felt was the freedom to be brave. We encouraged each other. We fought for each other. We shared our work with each other. We picked each other up when we failed. We were aware of the bubble we were in, which made it that much harder to eventually leave.


Peter McHugh
Freelance creative director/copywriter
(Group Creative Director, Fallon McElligott, 1995-2001)

I can’t take any credit for how Pat & Co. initially changed the game. I was a lucky beneficiary to arrive and be surrounded by incredible talent (in all departments, not just creative). The IQ level was scary-good. The work ethic was dialed up to 11. And clients came to Fallon with the desire for something special: "Buddy Lee" for Lee Jeans, "Cat Herders" for EDS, the long-running Time magazine "Red Border" ads, BMW films, Citibank, Nordstrom. It was an unspoken understanding: that’s the kind of thinking we were expected to deliver.

Dion Hughes
Creative Director
Persuasion Arts & Sciences
(Group Creative Director, Fallon McElligott,1995-1998)

From my very first meeting with Pat, he drilled into me that it would be perilous to ever take him on in a contest of practical jokes. He also kicked my arse regularly, teaching me that insight, strategy and creative is only great if it is rooted in the client's business. In fact, it is our responsibility to be great. That's why having his surname on your resume is shorthand for, "I get it."


Mark Sitley
Managing Director,
NBcontent and MMAPT
(Head of North American Production, Fallon Worldwide, 1999-2003)

My first meeting with Pat is what I remember most …
As part of the typical recruitment process we met and chatted opinionatedly and enthusiastically. We spoke of playwrights, directors, lyricists, poets, foreign cultures, the state of the world, and how much people really don't appreciate the lessons of history. Nothing to do with advertising — or "Fallon" at all.
Pat was a character for sure, but he was also a self-made man in many, many more ways than his ad successes warranted!



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