Lorraine McNeill-Popper ’78
CLAIM TO FAME: After 30 years in advertising, Lorraine McNeill-Popper’s thumbprint is everywhere: on Pepsi commercials with artists ranging from Michael Jackson to Wyclef Jean; on Life cereal’s beloved “Mikey” campaign; on Spanish commercials for Gardasil, Merck’s vaccine against human papillomavirus; on innovative anti-drug PSAs. Today, she is a principal and chief creative officer for PLUM Agency in Manhattan, and teaches at the Pratt Institute.
THE BELIEVER: Raised in Queens in a Lutheran family, McNeill-Popper became a theology major at Wagner. For her, the connection between theology and advertising lies in belief: Both are about “people’s pursuit to put their faith in something,” she says.
SPEAKING THEIR LANGUAGE: In 2007, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America approached McNeill-Popper to create the first anti-drug campaign targeted at urban youth. With a volunteer team of students and professional peers, she developed PSAs that use young people’s voices and authentic scenarios. In “Huggin’ the Block … Hard,” for example, a girl on a city street raps about a boy who is wasting his life getting high. In 2008, that spot was named Best National Multicultural Advertising Campaign for African-Americans by the Association of National Advertisers. (View the Partnership for a Drug-Free America ads.)
LEADERS WHO ROCK: If you returned your 2010 U.S. census form, perhaps McNeill-Popper influenced your decision. In one commercial, PLUM Agency created a beloved neighborhood matriarch, Miss Maybelle, who encourages everyone to follow her lead. Another spot, “Forward,” targeted the youth audience with a catchy hip-hop music video. (View the census ads.)
THE REAL DEAL: McNeill-Popper’s most recent work with PLUM Agency is an awareness campaign for the U.S. Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC), a super-select Marine unit started in 2006. Bent on authenticity, McNeill-Popper went on real MARSOC training missions to garner footage, sound, and images. She also used the troops’ own photos, videos, music, and voiceovers. McNeill-Popper developed a tremendous respect for these Marines in the process. “This has been the most memorable and prized experience in my career,” she says. “I feel honored and blessed to raise awareness of MARSOC.” (View the MARSOC ad.)