Albert G. “Al” Nickel was well known in our industry as the consummate client service professional. However, his greatest contribution was building a great agency through a culture that cultivated and nurtured people’s potential.
After graduating from college, Al served in The United States Air Force, ultimately being promoted to the rank of Captain in The Air Force Reserves. He began his business career with Pfizer, Inc. as a market research analyst. During his time at Pfizer, he spent time as a professional sales representative, marketing research manager, assistant product manager, and product manager, learning the industry and the skills that would serve him well in the years to follow.
In order to gain international experience, he went to USV International as a product manager, integrating the marketing efforts of five newly acquired subsidiary operations in five different countries, as well as coordinating the efforts of multiple licensees.
Lured by the challenge of an advertising career, Al joined the Deltakos Division of J. Walter Thompson as an account executive. After working on the Lilly and J&J Ethicon accounts as an account supervisor, he moved to the healthcare advertising subsidiary of Young & Rubicam, Inc., Sudler & Hennessey.
His initial assignments at S&H were products from the Roerig and Pfizer Laboratories Divisions of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. With a promotion to vice president, his responsibilities were expanded to include all the marketed products for Stuart Pharmaceuticals, medical promotion for General Foods’ Sanka Coffee, and medical advertising and promotion consultation for many products and programs for the General Foods Corporation. In addition to handling all marketed Stuart products, he helped launch two new ones, and achieved superior sales results. As a group account supervisor, he also assumed responsibility for McNeil Laboratories, with a team of account supervisors reporting to him. With his continuing efforts on the Stuart, General Foods, and McNeil accounts, his was elevated to senior vice president in December 1977.
Pursuing the opportunity to participate in the ownership of a healthcare communications agency, Al became a founding principal of Dorritie & Lyons, Inc. in 1979. In 1990 the firm recognized his participation and contributions with the addition of his name to become Dorritie Lyons & Nickel, Inc. In 1991, with his responsibilities expanded, he was named president, chief operating officer. In 1994, the firm became part of Omnicom Group Inc., and merged with Lavey Wolfe & Swift, Inc. to form Lyons Lavey Nickel Swift, Inc. with Al as president, chief operating officer. With Al at the helm, LLNS launched some of our industry’s most iconic brands, including Celebrex, Aricept, and Zoloft.
His responsibilities broadened further and he was named president, CEO of the HMC Group within Omnicom in 1999 and chairman and CEO of LLNS in 2000. In 2002 he became co-chairman of TBWA WorldHealth, which encompassed 20 global professional healthcare communications agencies. In 2008, Al retired.
In addition to his agency work, Al was a member of a number of industry and business organizations such as the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (First Associate Member of The Board of Directors from 1994 – 1996), The Healthcare Marketing & Communications Council (Board from 1994 through 1996), Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association, Board of Directors of the American Council on Science and Health, Medical Advertising Hall of Fame Executive Committee, AAAA’s Medical Advertising Agency Association, and the Coalition for Healthcare Communications.
Al is also active in many community/service/non-profit organizations. He is serving, or has served, as a trustee/board member for Cancer Care, The Hole-In-The-Wall Gang Camp Fund Development, The Wilton Family YMCA, Washington & Jefferson College, Dominican College, The Five Town Community Fund of the Fairfield County Foundation, Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County, The Eugene O’Neill Theater Development, Wilton High School Long-Range Planning Committee and the Wilton Lacrosse Association.
In recent conversations with two of Al’s previous clients, Karen Katen and Greg Duncan, they observed that he never showed up at a client without something to contribute. He always went beyond what his clients expected and brought something special, from the idea that launched Zyrtec over the counter to the creation of truly global campaigns through the TBWA World Health Network that he helped to form.
Despite his business success, Al’s key contribution to our industry was seeing the value of a great culture. The culture that Al created at LLNS recognized and maximized the talent of its people and created unprecedented business results. Employees and clients that Al worked with remain loyal to LLNS to this day, and the culture that he created stands the test of time. With Al, people and clients always came first.