On partnership with Pat Fallon and death in advertising

"If fault matters, it was my fault. And now Pat's gone, and we never reconciled," says Andy Berlin

Pat Fallon once sent me a birthday card. He wrote on it, "Happy Birthday, Berlin. Remember. We all die alone and afraid."

You had to know Pat to see the love in that card. You had to be his friend.

We were friends before we were partners.

And while we were never reconciled after our partnership ended, despite mutual disappointments, I’d like to think that the friendship in a number of ways outlived all else, even if it never again got to occupy the present tense.

Early on, as Jeff [Goodby] pointed out in a note to the people of GS&P, we were jealous of what Pat and Tom [McElligott] and Nancy [Rice] were doing in Minneapolis. Jealous, in a brotherly way.

Wieden & Kennedy, Fallon McElligott Rice and Goodby Berlin & Silverstein all started around the same time (in what Pat’s protege Steve Sjoblad called "advertising years," meaning, like dog years, they were longer than normal, and happy to be changed to score a point).

The three agencies had something in common besides a place in time and generational shift: The three of us sprang up far from the acknowledged commercial centers (and cultural norms) of advertising. We were different from everything else being done at that time, and different from each other, too.

Fallon beat us in a review for Porsche. Even though we had a really good idea that Porsche would revert to years on. (I was particularly to blame for our bad showing, having alienated the review consultant, a special talent of mine.)

Fallon was "Agency of the Year" before Wieden or we were.

We respected them.

I met Pat for the first time in a hotel in Los Angeles. We were judging the ANDYs. Walking towards each other from opposite ends of a long corridor. I saw him and shouted, "FALLON!"

He returned the favor.

We went out to supper that night.

We got on.

Pat’s modesty was refreshing. He deflected direct credit for his agency’s accomplishments; credit was for the people who wrote and art directed the ads that had made the agency famous. He credited his partners; the culture of the agency; how hard everyone worked and implicitly, the founding premise we shared that advertising was an industry energized by thoughtful, beautiful and artful ideas and that these ideas needed to be primus inter pares, and required persuasive support and vigorous promotion.

We became friends.

We’d talk frequently by phone. When you called Pat, he answered the line. Before caller ID. You called his number and he answered, "Fallon." Always.

Years later we became partners. It started well and with promise but eventually turned into disappointments, sad for all concerned. If fault matters, it was my fault. My faults are the only ones I can do anything with. And now Pat's gone, and we never reconciled. Pat wasn’t big on reconciliation. He preferred simplicity. And yet, I would always say, and say still now, Pat was my friend.

We did some good things together. We had some fun and shared the exultation of collaborative accomplishments.

And I will believe that, unlike the birthday card, Pat died surrounded by love, and the respect and adulation of hundreds of friends. Thousands maybe. Nor would he have been scared. It just wasn’t in his nature.

He was a great man. A good man.

He was my friend.

Now retired, Andy Berlin was a partner in Fallon’s short-lived New York venture, Fallon McElligott Berlin, from 1995 to 1997.

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