In the “Mad Men” era, Milwaukee had a reputation as more of a solid, B2B advertising community. At least until, Jim Weller burst onto the scene and injected a fresh dose of humor, emotion and award-winning creativity.
In 1967, Jim started as a writer working for the legendary PR man, Ben Barkin. In his first job, Weller helped create the long-running Old Milwaukee campaign “Tastes As Great As Its Name.” Two years later, Jim left to start his own ad agency, Jim Weller & Partners. An agency that quickly redefined what it meant to be a creative ad shop in Milwaukee.
In short order, the agency not only won many of the prime accounts in Milwaukee, including Northwestern Mutual, Florence Eiseman and Suburpia, but thanks to Jim’s sense for comedy, as well as eye for great, lesser known talent, they began to put Milwaukee advertising on the national map.
Jim was one of the first creatives in the nation to work with a relatively unknown director from Chicago named Joe Sedelmaier. Together, they created award-winning spots for Fisher Office Furniture as well as Suburpia. Years later, the Suburpia “Clown” spot was copied by Cliff Freeman for Wendy’s, in what would go down as one of history’s most famous ad lines, “Where’s the Beef?”
Weller was also the first Creative Director to work with an undiscovered actor from Chicago who would eventually become nationally famous. Weller used him in spots for the Pfister Hotel, Suburpia, Marine Bank and more. That young actor went on to find fame on “Saturday Night Live” –– it was John Belushi.
With a steady output of surprising, funny and memorable work, Jim’s agency dominated the local Addy’s, winning the city’s most coveted honor, “Best of Show” four years in a row, from 1972 – 1975.
After dominating the Milwaukee ad scene, Weller went on to New York and Los Angeles, including a stint as Worldwide Creative Director for Della Femina Travisiano. Among other work, Weller was responsible for the iconic Joe Isuzu “Liar” campaign and TransAmerica “Power of the Pyramid” campaign. His work was recognized by Cannes, the One Show, the Emmys, CA and many more. And Jim is proud to note that he helped pitch and win more than $1 billion in new business in his career.
After doing a stint as Creative Director for the Los Angeles Olympic Games, Jim became active in political messaging, for both parties. Including being personally asked by Ronald Reagan to be the Creative Director for his presidential campaign, which included Hal Riney. Together, the “Tuesday Team” created some of the most iconic advertising in political history.
In 1988, as the head of the George Bush campaign, Jim returned to his Wisconsin roots by including Frankenberry, Laughlin & Constable in the creative process, marking the first time a Wisconsin agency had worked on a presidential campaign.
Never one to slow down, Weller has come full circle and once again lives in Milwaukee where he continues to work as a creative consultant for clients.
Jim would often modestly say that, “It’s better to be lucky than good.” With a stellar career of outstanding achievements, Jim has been more than lucky. Jim Weller has been hall-of-fame good.