Like many other agency principals in medical advertising, Ron Pantello “carried the bag.” Ron’s first stint in the pharmaceutical business was at USV Laboratories, followed by an account services position at Sudler & Hennessey. Ron was profoundly influenced by MAHF Hall of Famer Matt Hennessey and patterned himself after the man he always referred to as “Mr. Hennessey.”
In 1980, Ron left Sudler & Hennessey along with copy guru John Lally and art director Jim McFarland to found Lally, McFarland and Pantello (LM&P)-now Euro RSCG Life LM&P. In 1990, LM&P became part of the Euro RSCG global network, and Ron began a new phase of his career. Ron led the formation of the global Euro RSCG Life network of agencies, retiring as Chairman in 2007 at which time ERL was the fifth-largest network of its kind. In keeping with his personal philosophy, Ron’s integrity and leadership fostered a culture and structure that for the first time in the industry offered clients a media-neutral, single P&L, free of any internal bias or influence.
Known as “Coach” by many of his employees, Ron often walked through the agency, stopping to talk with staffers about their families, their work, and their lives. He was interested in and part of their professional and personal lives. Over and over again in his career, he demonstrated himself to be a true “people person.” His interest in and appreciation of people was beautifully illustrated in the way he treated his employees. As he often said of LM&P, “Our agency’s most important assets go up and down the elevator every day.” Ron was not afraid to stand up for his people, even to clients. He simply would not tolerate disrespectful treatment of his employees. As a result of the culture that Ron and his partners created at LM&P, a surprising number of people who left returned sooner or later.
Ron was always among the first to lead and serve industry trade associations. Throughout his long and distinguished career, he supported, among others, The Coalition for Healthcare Communication, the Pharmaceutical Advertising Council (which later evolved to the Healthcare Communication & Marketing Association), and The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, for whom Ron served as Representative for Associate Members. In the latter role, Ron was instrumental in the formulation of PhRMA’s self-regulation codes.
New business is the sustaining source of growth for advertising agencies and communications companies, and this was true for the agency Ron founded and the large network he chaired later in his career. Early on, Ron began a practice of making a charitable contribution each and every time the agency won a new business pitch. A different local or regional charity was selected each time – without press releases or even internal announcement. This practice was in keeping with Ron’s philosophy of sharing the benefits of good fortune. Indeed, for Ron, charity began at home. Before the advent of 401Ks, many of LM&P’s employees bought their first home thanks to a loan approved by Ron. And, during lean periods early in the agency’s life, Ron and the other partners on more than one occasion withheld their own bonuses in order to give the employees more substantial ones.
Ron loved being an ad man; he was loyal to and proud of his industry and the work it does. He believed that our industry’s icons deserved being remembered and honored. Furthermore, he was convinced that the younger people coming up need a sense of their industry’s history and the people who built it. In 1996, he put his beliefs into action, founding the Medical Advertising Hall of Fame and serving as its chairperson. Among the first to be inducted was Ron’s mentor, “Mr. Hennessey.”
Importantly, Ron is an icon of integrity that deserves to shine as a beacon for those who will follow in his footsteps. It would be difficult to find someone more deserving of an honored place among the industry leaders represented in the Medical Advertising Hall of Fame.