Profiles of the Powerful: Advertising Exec Steve Grasse
After ten minutes with Ed Tettemer in the offices of the agency he founded with partner, Steve Red, you begin to understand the agency's passion for excellence. After an hour with Ed, you begin to understand the intensity of his personal passion. You begin to understand it but I have a feeling that, even after days and days of exposure to him, you probably wouldn't get the whole picture. "Passion," the word, may seem descriptive of a complicated set of feelings and opinions. Oddly, in thinking about Ed Tettemer's passion for his agency and its clients, it seems rather simple. It's just that he wants everything to be excellent: excellent clients, excellent co-workers, excellent marketing solutions, excellent creative executions, excellent everything.
"Where'd you go to college, Ed?" (A question most interviewers ask without expecting surprises in the response.) "Never went to college. Dropped out of high school and never looked back. Got my college degree at the Elkman agency and my graduate degree at Earle Palmer Brown." Maybe it's best to start at the beginning.
Ed was born and raised and was "scared of the city," living in a rather parochial environment. His Father was a sheriff in Bucks County and his Mother worked as a secretary in the office of the small township where they lived. Theirs was a simple life, a good life in a small town atmosphere. He and his Dad fished a lot and they ate what they caught. The vegetables on their table came from their garden except for the mushrooms they harvested after heavy rains. It seemed to be an uncomplicated existence far from the pressures and tensions of traditional business, especially the advertising business. Dad was pretty much occupied with his job and the politics of the community. Mom was more influential on the lives of Ed and his older brother. Neither parent made strong suggestions about what Ed and his brother did to prepare them for a career. They were good people and Mom, especially, influenced the way Ed has turned out.
She was passionate about music and books. Ed is, too. She preached, "Keep your eyes and ears open." Ed tries to do that. All she wanted for her children was for them to be happy and she didn't try to control their every move. Today, Ed appreciates that. His childhood was a happy one. He liked to fish. He played a lot of baseball. He was a fairly typical American kid.
Then, when he was in high school, there was a dramatic change. It was called the Viet Nam War. Consistent with how many people felt at the time, his older brother took off for Canada to resist the war. That had severe, negative impact on life in peaceful Bucks County. Overnight, the Tettemer family became pariahs. Friends deserted them. The community changed its view of them. Church changed. Bad stuff! Clearly, that situation had a powerful influence on Ed's psyche. He dropped out of high school and spent over three years hitch hiking all over the country.
He found ways to make enough money to do a lot of both savory and unsavory things. He was a confused young man wandering the country during confusing times. But he never lost touch with his Mother and Dad so, ultimately, he went home to Bucks County and found a job working as a glorified gopher for the Doylestown Intelligencer. He ran ads back and forth from the paper to its small, retail advertisers. He says, "I guess I was a junior account executive and didn't know it." He delivered ad proofs, started helping small stores with their ad copy and quickly learned how those small retailers did their newspaper advertising. During the year at the paper, he got to know and got to be friendly with many of his customers. He realized that most of them didn't have a lot of confidence in the help they were getting from the paper. He believed that he could help them do better advertising, advertising that actually worked and could be tracked.