Client Spotlight: Thomas Cordner

Q: Tom, please tell us a little about yourself:

A: I’m intensely motivated to be strategically creative. I have had the honor of launching the Lexus brand and writing ‘The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection’ theme line which guided all creative in their brand for 30 years. I’m now a professor of ArtCenter College of Design and Chairman of the FullCircle Board there as well. Recently, I launched Kerfuffle Unlimited because I get requests to help businesses launch their brands. I’m busy and it’s fun.

Q: What inspired you to get into the advertising business and how did you become involved in art and the advertising field?

A: Failure. I dropped out of University of Maryland, quitting on myself. I joined the Air Force. My job there was that of a graphic designer, pure serendipity. After the Air Force, I went to a junior college in Baltimore to prove I wasn’t stupid. After 3 of 4 semesters and a 4.7 grade average I was done at that school, for which my funny teacher said, “Are you stupid? Finish because there are colleges that you can get into”. They recommended ArtCenter. I applied, got in and made it my focus to get a full scholarship… and eventually did. My focus was adverting. After graduation I went to Madison Avenue. After many creative agency jobs, I started TeamOne Advertising using a multi-national Saatchi agencies’ money. By the way, I never quit on anything that I believe has value. I’m like a Pitbull on a juicy bone that way.

Q: Tell us about what you do now with Art Center:

A: I teach 4-5 classes in the ‘Creative Direction’ curriculum. I’m also Chairman of the FullCircle Board where the objective is philanthropy and funding scholarships.

Q: Do you have a specialty area of advertising that you prefer to focus on?

A: As an Executive Creative Director, I’m like a conductor of the Philharmonic. I’m knowledgeable about all aspects of advertising, but where I excel is strategic leadership of each brand. This includes all creative, all research, all account work and holding the hand of my clients while leading them to the edge of great creativeness that makes their buyers look, think and care.

Q: What has been the most rewarding part of your career in advertising?

A: Teaching. My students call me ‘Ad-Dad’ because I’m there 24/7 for them, even after they graduate.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge in teaching over the last few of years?

A: COVID, it’s un-natural! For 14 weeks, students hate it, I hate it. Teaching with masks is un-natural. But, it taught us a new way to learn and to teach. I look forward to the day when no masks are required, which may be never.

Q: What is the most exciting aspect of working in advertising?

A: Change. It’s both scary and exciting but always filled with opportunity. Change is good. Change is growth.

Q: Is there anything else that you would like us to know?

A: I flunked ‘remedial English’ at University of Maryland; I cannot write an email without some typo (I’m called Typo-Tom). Seven years ago, I finished a self-published book to my children called ‘Outhouse Diaries and Other Juicy Morsels. I was shocked by the adrenalin of writing. I’m currently writing a book of some scale that starts with the word ‘Hello’ and ends with ‘Hello’. I need a good proof-reader, know of any?

Q: You wear many hats with multiple businesses. Tell us a little about what you do:

A: President, ECD at Kerfuffle in Pasadena, CA – I operate as CCO and Consultant on complex startup brands, guiding creative across multiple marketing platforms with the philosophy of “Make Consumers Look. Make Them Think. Make Them Care”.

Professor at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, CA – I teach students to think before they create, that relevant ideas give birth to multiple executions across multiple media platforms, and that if your idea doesn’t add value to people’s lives it has no value.

Q: If someone is interested and can benefit from your services, what is the best way to reach you?

A: or 626-716-2720 as a text preferably.

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