For more than 35 years, Ron Telpner lived by this motto: have fun, stay young, make money.
The veteran copywriter, who announced his retirement on Wednesday, even had the words written on an art piece made with candy mounted on the wall of The BrainStorm Group, the agency he founded in 1992. It was a gift from his long-time creative partner, Dorothy McMillian.
The announcement marks the final stage of a long succession that started in Dec. 2011 when Telpner transferred ownership of the agency to partners: McMillian, Bob Froese, CEO, and finance director Pauline Abela. Froese said the agency’s senior team has taken over as a collective unit and that Telpner’s now-vacant position as chairman will not be filled.
After three decades in the ad business and positions as both executive vice-president of McKim BBDO (later McKim Advertising) and the CEO of his own agency, Telpner said the time for his retirement has come. “All my colleagues are either retired, fired or dead,” Telpner deadpanned. “The young people say to me, ‘You’re really cool,’ but in their heads they’re thinking, ‘For a man your age,” he laughed.
Telpner will now dedicate more time to working with Movember, a group he’s been closely aligned with since he was diagnosed with cancer in Sept. 2010. He’ll be working with the group as a brand consultant.
Froese said Telpner’s work with Movember helped him transition into retirement. “Ron has had some great opportunities recently with Movember – over the last few months and especially in November,” he said. “I think he’s found his place outside the agency and is starting to enjoy it.”
Telpner said he promises not to “fail” at retirement and end up starting another agency or taking another job. After a lengthy career, he’s ready for a change. “I’ve been in it for over 35 years. A year in advertising is like a dog year; it’s actually seven years. Really it’s like 200-something years in this business,” he said.
The ad industry knows Telpner as a charismatic creative who is almost always the best-dressed man in the room. Telpner, who helped land fashion brands as some of the first clients at BrainStorm, is well-known for eye-catching fashions, but Froese said the iconic piece he most associates Telpner with is a pair of pink Manolo Blahnik shoes Froese had custom created by the designer, who does not make shoes for men.
“I convinced him to make a pair of bubblegum pink shoes for Ron,” Froese said. “Ron being Ron immediately wore them to a [then-client Automatic Data Processing] convention, which is one of the most conservative environments on Earth.”
“He built an immediate reputation that was never forgotten,” Froese said. “He was always the guy with the bubble pink shoes.”