Rolland “Ron” Anderson was known as the “godfather of Minneapolis advertising.”
As much as he was revered for his artistic eye for ads and clever headlines, Anderson’s lasting legacy was rooted in his ability to mentor and elevate others, many of whom would go on to become advertising greats themselves.
“He combined two things that are very rare,” said advertising veteran David Bell, a friend and colleague of Anderson’s. “He combined the absolute highest level of creativity with amazing humility and concern for other people.”
Anderson died Aug. 6. He was 82.
Rolland Richard Anderson was born the youngest of six children in January 1936 in Park River, N.D.
When Anderson was just a toddler, his family moved to Wichita, Kan. He went to North High School and later graduated with a bachelor of fine arts from Wichita State University in 1958, the same year he married his wife, Charlotte.
While art had been a passion, Anderson decided advertising would be a good career to incorporate his talents.
Anderson moved his family to the Twin Cities in 1962 and became an art director at the now defunct Knox Reeves ad agency in Minneapolis. Knox Reeves’ list of clients included General Mills (Wheaties and Hamburger Helper), beauty care company Alberto-Culver, and Grain Belt beer.
At Knox Reeves, Anderson became an executive and mentor to young talent who would later change the local ad scene. They included Sue Crolick, Nancy Rice and copywriter Tom McElligott, who with Rice and other partners would form Fallon McElligott Rice.
After Knox Reeves lost General Mills, its biggest client, Anderson teamed up with Bell to buy the agency. In 1974, the pair merged Knox Reeves with New York agency Bozell & Jacobs.
Outside of his agency, Anderson also was part of a freelance ad team with McElligott and competitor Pat Fallon called Lunch Hour Limited that was successful until McElligott and Fallon started their own agency.
In the mid-1980s, Anderson became president of Bozell & Jacobs-Midwest.
It wasn’t until 1988 that Anderson and his family moved from their home in the Wayzata area to the New York City area, where Anderson would serve as global creative director for Bozell and continue to inspire employees.
David Wojdyla said he remembered his first day at Bozell, when Anderson visited his cubicle to welcome him.
“Ron, in that 5- to 10-minute exchange, somehow elevated me to his level,” Wojdyla recalled. “I remember after he left I was just floating in the clouds.”
Wojdyla, who currently has his own marketing firm in Chicago, created a blog “Standing on the Shoulders of a Giant” which is dedicated to Anderson.
“I think I’m just trying to follow in Ron’s footsteps,” Wojdyla said. “If somebody is saying ‘I’m going to graduate in three months,’ I’m not going to turn anybody away. I want to help others the way Ron helped me, in any way I can.”
Anderson moved back to the Twin Cities in 1994. He retired in 2001, which gave him more time to focus on his watercolor paintings, Charlotte Anderson said. In the later years of his life, Anderson suffered from Alzheimer’s.
Charlotte Anderson said she will miss her husband’s “big smile and twinkly eyes.”
“He was forever telling jokes and that type of thing,” she said. “He was really loved by everybody.”
In addition to Charlotte, his wife of 60 years, Anderson is survived by children Rex, Nicole and Matthew, and two grandchildren.
Services have been held.