A legend in her field, proved most recently by her receipt of the 2013 American Advertising Federation Silver Medal Award, Nancy Rice stunned many of her peers when she chose to teach instead of creating more advertising. Global honors, powerful positions at famed ad firms (BBDO, Ogilvy & Mather, DDB/Needham), not to mention her central role as a founder of the pioneering Fallon McElligott Rice agency in Minneapolis—those were "known" challenges. The classroom was next.
Even her selection for the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame in 2006 didn’t keep her in a studio. Her thirty years of innovations have been followed by nearly a dozen years of leading fresh creative minds, and she’s as enthused as ever. “I didn’t learn about the industry in a formal school,” she notes; “we grabbed anything anyone threw at us, and turned them into gems. And that’s how I teach: Make it intriguing, make it challenging, make it real. And, make it OK to fail.”
She speaks with awe of her young MCAD learners, sounding like a past observer of her own memorable creations. As an art director, Rice wittily helped publicize the Episcopal Church with a bold reference to Henry VIII’s six wives; now, her praise for a “brilliant” student who turned his hatred of cats into a witty, “air-quality” pet insurance TV ad echoes the acclaim she once earned. She insists she’s “most proud of my students as human beings when they respect the ideas and lives of [their] many talented partners.”
Even more pride came in the Spring 2011 semester, when a team of students from Rice’s Integrated Advertising class went beyond the imaginary. Collaborating intensely, the students created a successful membership recruitment campaign directed at young women, in the US, then worldwide, for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). Rice and her students went first to New York, then the WILPF annual convention in North Carolina, to present and arrange to apply their work. They’ve been “hired,” and further travel invitations for the project have followed. “I am humbled,” she says of the honor the classroom team has earned.
What’s important to Rice is that this “integrated” campaign will be applied using multiple tactics, meaning students with different skills and majors are united in the effort. “You can’t teach talent,” she admits. “But you can help students find their place in the idea food chain . . . you can lay smart bread crumbs to help them find a great idea buried somewhere in their notebooks and heads.”