Tom Moudry On the Spot

Six months after joining Martin/Williams as ecd, Moudry produced the Minneapolis agency’s first Super Bowl commercial, which also served as Staples’ debut in the Big Game. The spot—which extends the “Easy” positioning via a corrupt office-supplies manager and a Mafia-themed punch line—was Moudry’s third in the Bowl. The 43-year-old Minneapolis native, who trained as an art director at the Portfolio Center, worked on a Miller Lite entry while at Leo Burnett in the early ’90s but is better known for the mosquito-exploding Tabasco spot out of DDB Dallas. He’s now readying Martin/Williams’ first work for E*Trade, set to break later this month.

Q. What inspired you to get into advertising?

A. I’ve always been a very visual human being. I used to draw on everything and paint logos on our basement walls—as the youngest of eight kids, my parents were very patient. So that gave me a good indication of where I was headed.

What was your first ad?

It was for Bob Evans Farms sausages. I was at Hal Riney in Chicago, and it was the most exciting thing I had ever done. I showed the work to the client, and he said it was the worst piece of photography he had ever seen.

What work are you most proud of?

The work I was able to do for Tabasco. Not only from a creative standpoint but from a standpoint of being able to get a client to trust you and being able to change a strategy and do work that makes a difference to people and gets noticed on a limited budget.

How is this Super Bowl appearance different from the other two?

This is a little more mature assignment. The objective wasn’t to do the best Super Bowl spot you possibly could, which is generally what a beer commercial’s objective is. This was trying to explain a new strategy, which was “Easy” for Staples, and get that across in the context of Super Bowl ads, which can be difficult.

What makes a great Super Bowl ad?

Pushing the limits of sophomoric humor or sexual innuendos or very, very broad humor that appeals to a lower common denominator with the sound off after a 12-pack of beer. But in the grand scale of what makes a great ad, those rules don’t necessarily apply.

So what makes a great ad?

What makes a great ad and falls flat in the Super Bowl genre is something that’s not just simple but is original and appeals to people on a higher level and lets them make a connection themselves.

How important is the pregame hype?

In this case, it has been huge. My past experiences, they chose to keep things a little blind. But now the PR opportunities are so substantial, they have done a very good job and have been very diligent in leveraging as many PR opportunities as they can.

What sort of challenges does the E*Trade campaign you’re working on present?

This is a huge opportunity. But it’s also a dicey one, because E*Trade is a very different company now than it was when Goodby was establishing the brand as an online brokerage. Now they are a full-service financial company that has grown up in the category. There’s the challenge of telling people they’re in a lot of different businesses, yet still trying to retain the questioning and slightly irreverent personality. It’s always a difficult assignment to come off great work from one of the best agencies in the country and redefine a brand. There’s a high degree of difficulty.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

I would slow down technology. It’s killing our ability to craft the work. It has just squeezed the back end of the production process to frightening proportions.

You were a resident creative for Omnicom at SBC. How is the return to agency life?

It’s been fantastic. That was a very strange yet wonderfully interesting assignment that gave me great perspective. As patient as Omnicom and SBC were with me, I’m happy to be back on the agency side. That’s where my DNA is.

What do you mean by “patient”?

I think having a creative person wandering the halls of a client is not unlike having a chimpanzee wandering the halls of a client. I was a very different animal in there.

How did you manage coming in to Martin/ Williams as an outsider?

You can only imagine the excitement of the creative department when they hear their new executive creative director is coming from a telecommunications company and Omnicom, the parent company. The good thing is, everybody’s books are current. The other good thing is, nobody has left me yet.

What was the last ad that made you think, “I wish I had done that”?

The “Damien” milk spot [“Birthday”] from Goodby. Not only was it a brilliant execution, but it was a brilliant idea. Just when you thought they had done everything they possibly could, they came up with that. They took it to a wonderfully dark and unique place.

Is there a product you wouldn’t work on?

I probably wouldn’t work on Osama bin Laden’s next campaign. But other than that, I’m a whore.

Give me three words to describe yourself.

Resilient, calm and occasionally funny.

What’s your personal motto?

To protect and serve.

What’s your biggest fear?

Dying a bitter old hack.