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Passion over knowledge is key in advertising, Tucker says

Ogilvy & Mather Advertising President Adam Tucker knows a lot about developing brand identities for some of the best-known companies in the world. But in his presentation on Northwestern University’s campus February 18, he told a filled auditorium of School of Communication students that clients care more about how much an ad team cares than how much they know.

“The industry is oversupplied,” said Tucker (C92) at the top of his one-and-a-half hour talk, which was hosted by the School of Communication’s Office of External Programs, Internships, and Career Services. “Only the agencies that demonstrate their passion for the products and attention to detail will build meaningful relationships with clients and win campaigns.”

Attention to detail and a high level of client care were topics that ran through Tucker’s anecdote-and-film-clip-punctuated talk highlighting two decades in advertising in some of the world’s highest profile agencies that include Fallon and Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO. In the late ’80s, Tucker had been a dispassionate political science major until he took a School of Communication course taught by Professor Irving Rein. His excitement over that course, followed by an internship at an ad agency the following summer, helped Tucker make the decision to pursue the field of advertising.

“You’ve got to know what you love,” Tucker said. “Bring your best self. Don’t go through the motions. Think about what gets you out of bed.”

Tucker shared numerous examples of the ways he and his teams have showed their clients how much they care. During one client meeting, Tucker recalled, not one, but two laptop computers containing the pitch failed to work. But Tucker had copied the presentation onto his personal laptop and the team was able to present it without a hitch.

“When the client told us that we earned the account he said he loved the moment in the pitch where we weren’t thrown off by losing our back up,” Tucker said. The client had been impressed by the level of preparation that reflected a level of care and detail they felt the team would bring to the account in the future.

Tucker also advised students to pick one thing about the business and be an expert. When his team was creating a campaign for a carrier in the telecom industry, Tucker read everything he could on telecommunications deregulation. “I quickly became known as ‘Mr. Telecom’ in the industry,”  he said. When he moved to London to work on international brands, Tucker learned the differences between American and international consumer perceptions and became known as “Mr. International.” In recent years, Tucker has cleverly integrated digital media into campaigns and became known as “Mr. Integration,” earning high praise for Walkers Sandwich campaign which you can view here:

Over the course of his career, Tucker played a key role in United Airlines, Citibank and Sony Consumer Electronics ads that were honored with numerous awards in Cannes and a Euro Effie. He led the team that created Citibank’s “Live Richly” and Sony’s “You Make It a Sony” campaigns. Pepsico, Johnson & Johnson, Motorola, Cola-Cola, Bird’s Eye and General Electric have also benefitted from Tucker’s ingenuity and high standard for client relations.

Recently, Tucker’s team created a risky Super Bowl ad for Nationwide Insurance that received a lot of attention that he says “started a conversation.” He stands by his decision, as does Nationwide. For a clip of the thought that went into that decision that shows the extent of care Tucker and his team took, click on this link for Nationwide Insurance’s “Make Safe Happen”

 “Love your clients,” Tucker offered as his final advice, ”and they will love you back.”

-Ellen Blum Barish (C81, GJ84)