It is not unusual for people who have made their marks in the world at large to leave their pasts behind. Morgan E. Cline has done just the opposite. He has turned his attention to his boyhood home—the farming community of Centerville, Iowa—with affectionate generosity to “revive the spirit of the town.” He has made sizeable donations and investments to restore the downtown including remodeling a theater and funding a hospital/nursing home. He is helping to turn Centerville around and, in the process, he is celebrating the work ethic of his early roots that some of his colleagues consider the foundation of his success.
Josh Prince, creative director (copy) at CDM, says, “Morgan is someone who understands where he came from and what it took to get him where he is…Morgan is committed to giving opportunities to other people to achieve the same thing and to giving back to the communities and organizations that made a difference to him along the way.”
Cline left Centerville Journal College on a scholarship to study pharmacy at nearby Drake University. (He has given $5 million to the school for scholarships and there is now a Morgan E. Cline Hall of Pharmacy and Science on the campus.) He had ambitions to become a doctor and spent 2 years in pre-med. But service in the army interrupted this plan and, on discharge, he became a practicing pharmacist. His education and pharmacy experience have greatly influenced his approach to medical advertising.
He entered the agency world through the Burdick agency—a shop noted for recruiting promising talent from the drug field for account people. Then, after a brief stop at Becker, he joined Klemtner Advertising, beginning a 17-year career. At Klemter, he worked on such accounts as Lederle, Ayerst, Abbott, USV, and, most importantly, Pfizer. Eventually, Cline became president of the agency.
At Klemtner he developed his relationship with Pfizer on such blockbuster brands as Terramycin, Vibramycin, and Diabenese. One successful campaign that bears Cline’s stamp for a science-oriented marketing strategy expressed through a memorable creative execution was the Vibramycin program that focused on the product’s absorbability. The campaign’s theme was “the tissue is the issue,” and demonstrated the antibiotic’s cellular penetration through images of radio-tagged Vibramycin at the sites of infection.
In 1984, together with designer Clyde Davis and writer Fred Mann, he formed Cline Davis & Mann (CDM). Cline’s operating style is a primer on the ideal account manager. He was remarkably attentive to client attitudes and sensibilities.
Says Ed Wise, CDM’s president and CEO, “Morgan was an incredible listener…a very hard listener…very inquisitive of what their actual needs were…dug into the client…so he wasn’t running off with his own ideas.”
He also operated at all client levels. Clyde Davis, a founder of CDM, comments on Cline’s in-depth approach: “I don’t think there was a person at Pfizer that didn’t want to work with Morgan or didn’t like him. He knew everyone on the floor, from the mailroom all the way up to the top of the division and the company.”
This understanding of client needs led to an intense involvement with the agency’s creative product, as Jack Solanker, CDM’s chairman and COO, reports, “He was probably the most creative account person I’ve ever seen, and always took a hand in the creative product. You knew if you got creative work past Morgan…it was pretty damn good.”
But Cline’s review of creative work went beyond execution. He shaped the message, insisting on ideas with broad scope.
Wise says, “Morgan was demanding of the creative process. You couldn’t take another step until you had that big idea. He’d get to a point when he’d pound his fists on the desk and say, ‘It’s not big enough! We’ve got to make this idea bigger.’ It was a challenge, but he really pushed us to some terrific heights.”
As a result of his high standards, clients relied on Cline’s judgment. Ed Wise said, “Morgan wanted solid science that was filled with substance. That was what he was all about…I don’t think he was into far-fetched metaphors. He felt there was power in the true medicine and the science.”
The Cline marketing/creative philosophy at CDM has contributed to the sales programs of a number of Pfizer brands—Viagra, Lipitor, Zithromax, Neurontin, Diflucan, and Norvasc—creating an impressive run of marketing successes.
To see Cline only through his career in medical advertising does not reveal the full man. When he lived in Hoboken, NJ, he was instrumental in the renewal of the community, refurbishing brownstones and helping form a chamber music group. He hosts an annual cancer charity ball at his present home in Monmouth County, NJ, that is attended by over 1,000 guests.
His creative abilities extend beyond the Rx promotional message. Having studied at Julliard, he is an accomplished pianist—from Chopin to popular music. He is absolutely disinterested in sports, disliking, say his friends, “anything in uniforms.” Given the fascination among most clients for athletics, Cline’s aversion to sports speaks to his impressive abilities as an account person. Instead, his passion is opera and he has a box at the Met.
Cline is clearly a man of great depth. Intriguingly, he has put all his abilities and tastes together into the job of running an agency to become what Carol DiSanto, director of client services at CDM, calls a “magical person.” His partner, Clyde Davis, pays him this tribute: “A big man…on a big stage…with big ideas…with a big heart.”