Tom Messner, the erudite ad veteran and periodic Freaking Marketing commenter, co-founded Messner Vetere Berger Carey, which later became Euro RSCG New York. This morning I emailed Tom 10 questions, and a short time later, back came these responses.
It seems like your generation produced more iconoclastic personalities than we see today. Do you agree?
To be iconoclastic, you need icons to destroy. The fewer icons, the fewer iconoclasts. Today's iconoclasts are independently owned companies and anonymous or eponymous bloggers.
You worked with advertising legend Carl Ally, co-founder of Ally & Gargano. What did you learn from him?
He said there were leaders, managers, and doers. He didn't want managers. Wasteful, he thought. Our agency's organizing principle: leaders who are also doers.
One of your ads for Adelphi University, with the headline, "Why the most interesting university in the country stoops so low as to advertise itself," was, to say the least, controversial. What was that about?
We thought that advertising universities diminish universities. A little pompous. But Adelphi's President, a controversial figure himself, thought we created the university he wanted.
Your crowd of creative people seemed to avoid direct marketing like the plague. Why?
My crowd (going back to Ally & Gargano) felt we were crossovers. We had many DR successes (and some failures, too). MCI, most notably.
Some people think you can't built a great brand through TV anymore. Do you agree?
No. But it is harder to build a great (or lesser) brand today with ONLY television. Which is why no one tries it.
You worked on the Tuesday Team that helped re-elect Ronald Reagan in 1984. What was that like?
You were on an all-star team. Unprecedented really. People from Ogilvy, Della Femina, BBDO, DDB, Ally.
What did you really think of David Ogilvy?
If you had a Mount Rushmore of ad people, the four would be J Walter Thompson, William Bernbach, David Ogilvy, and, well, maybe only three.
You promoted the Commodore 64, which became the world's best-selling computer. What made the campaign so successful?
The product, the price, the timing coming out of a recession, the distribution, the competitive nature of the work and the market development Commodore indulged.
You're now in a comedy troupe. Are you having fun?
I'd say it was a second childhood except grownassmen.tv seems like the first.
What advice do you have for kids who want to grow up to be like Tom Messner?
Business advice: have patience and find great partners.