Tom Cordner

Creative Director and Co-Chairman

Team One Advertising

Age: 52

In 1988, Tom Cordner was offered the opportunity to live a businessman’s wildest dreams: To start up a company from scratch according to his own design and with someone else’s money.

It was Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising Worldwide that offered Cordner the chance to start a division in order to handle a new car called the Lexus.

“It was like being given a clean sheet of paper, being able to do everything I want and without having to inherit any creative people or account people that I didn’t want,” said Cordner, the company’s creative director and co-chairman.

Before Team One, Cordner served in head creative posts in Los Angeles at Chiat/Day and Ogilvy & Mather, where he helped pitch and win the Microsoft account.

Team One’s staff is mostly young, and Cordner expects many of them to move on after a few years.

“We’re not one of the five or six firms in Los Angeles where people aim to end up working. Team One hires young people, we help each other, and usually they move on,” he said.

Although the agency was created to handle the Lexus account, Team One has since acquired other clients including Boston Market, America West Airlines and Addidas America.

Even so, Lexus still accounted for about 75 percent of the agency’s $266 million in billings last year.

Cordner said the one main surprise he has encountered at Team One is the relative infrequency of successes for its pitches.

The company’s pitches succeed about 25 percent of the time; the goal is to win its pitches 33 percent to 50 percent of the time.

“There are pitches we go into where we can’t see why we didn’t win them, but it’s all a part of paying your dues and learning how to earn new business, and that’s what we’re doing,” Cordner said.

Wade Daniels

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