Pat Fallon, Founder and Former CEO of Fallon, Dies at 70

An agency, a city and an industry lose a legendary leader

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Pat Fallon, a giant of advertising whose sharp eye for great ideas made him beloved to the creatives who worked for him—and whose eponymous agency helped to turn Minneapolis into a creative hub—died on Friday, the agency confirmed. He was 70.

The cause of death was a hemorrhagic stroke, an agency spokeswoman said.

"We are devastated by the loss of our iconic leader," Fallon's current CEO, Mike Buchner, said in a statement. "He was our inspiration, our fire in the belly, our eternal conscience and the head of our Fallon family. We will miss him dearly, but are fully committed to living up to the legacy of greatness that he established at the place that bears his name."

Fallon co-founded what was originally called Fallon McElligott Rice in 1981. He served as the agency's CEO for 27 years, transitioning into the role of chairman emeritus in 2008. He was inducted into the American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame in 2010.

Aside from a brief stint at Leo Burnett in Chicago early in his career, Fallon spent his entire career in the Twin Cities, building Fallon into one of the world's most creative shops. Among its many triumphs were the pioneering branded entertainment series BMW Films (led creatively by David Lubars, who would later become the creative soul of BBDO); the famous EDS "Cat Herders" Super Bowl spot; the "Buddy Lee" work for Lee Jeans; and iconic advertising for brands like MTV, Miller Lite, Porsche, Citi, Holiday Inn Express, United Airlines and Cadillac.

The agency expanded to London in 1998 and Tokyo in 2003. Fallon London has been a force over the years, too, creating lauded work including the Sony Bravia "Balls" ad and Cadbury's brilliant "Gorilla" spot.

Current agency clients include Arby's, H&R Block and Loctite, for which Fallon produced a memorably offbeat Super Bowl spot earlier this year.

From the beginning, Fallon had lofty goals, printing a full-page agency manifesto in the Minneapolis Tribune in 1981. He sought "clients who would rather outsmart the competition than outspend them." He believed creativity could take businesses anywhere they wanted to go. And he figured they wouldn't mind coming to Minneapolis to get it.

"We all lived here," he recalled last year in an interview with Twin Cities Business. "We didn't understand why it couldn't be done here."

An aggressive and passionate businessman, Fallon knew the value of an agency's culture and protected it at all costs.

"Fallon is a timeless tribute to dreamers everywhere," he wrote on the agency's website. "To those who accomplish what others believe to be impossible. To the men and women of muscular intellect who defy mediocrity in what they achieve and how they achieve it. To all people who refuse to be defined by others and who bristle under the expectations of the meek and the well-behaved. To everyone who understands and believes in the magical, game-changing powers of creativity. Importantly, Fallon is a refuge for those few individuals with the courage to put it all on the line in order to challenge the odds and come out on top."

Fallon remained deeply involved with the agency in the chairman emeritus role.

"I'm not the type to sit on the beach and grow a ponytail. I love the business and I love to compete, so I love who I work with and who I work for," he told Adweek in a 2006 interview. Of the agency's future, he added: "I see the creativity DNA being at the center of everything we do. I see us leading … and pushing those standards to higher and higher levels."

Many in the business have been writing tributes to Fallon on Twitter, with Jeff Goodby saluting the man whose work "made us insanely stupidly jealous on so many occasions."

Plans for a memorial service will be announced soon.

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.