>> Tuesday, November 8, 2011
I got an email last night from my good friend Andrea Alstrup saying that Pete Tyrrell had passed away.
Pete ran J&J's Corporate Advertising Group for many years and was a vocal proponent for the advertising and pharmaceutical industries at a time when the world was beginning to change. But to me he was an incredibly valuable mentor and friend.
Pete embodied the credo of J&J: his first priority was clearly to the customers all J&J brands served, and he was transparent in his agenda and goals. He knew what he knew -- and he knew what he didn't, and his greatest strength may have been his ability to build trust in others to compensate for what he didn't know and -- in so doing -- create a better product. Pete wasn't one for process -- if it interfered with good thinking or work -- and he was willing to put his own neck on the line and go for it.
For instance, a few months after the national launch of Acuvue Disposable Contact Lenses, we learned that one of the teams in that year's Super Bowl was wearing the product: we took an idea, from concept to airing on the Super Bowl, in 11 days. Pete used his connections to push this through, both J&J corporately and the network airing the game that year, which miraculously "found" the time on the game long-ago sold out (we even got billboards in the pre & post-game shows!). Many believe that the lift in patient inquiries & fits that came from running that spot put Acuvue on the trajectory that made the brand a global success. No one would ever have approved it in an annual plan, circumstances took us to an opportunity and we went for it.
We didn't always agree -- we did a corporate spot called "A Mother's Touch", which Adweek named one of the best spots of the '90's, and Pete pulled it off air just after it started because he felt that the spot made J&J look old (the talent was a grandmother holding her grandchild). No one could understand why he became so sensitive to this (it was, after all, the idea we sold to him), but everyone trusted Pete's judgement enough to leave it alone.
Pete wasn't an easy client -- there was a reason he held that big job -- but he was fair and if you earned his respect and trust, he rewarded you big time. He was a class act. I will miss his opinion, his enthusiasm, his friendship.