North Texas Daily

The Life and Times of “Mad Man” Bill Ford

The Life and Times of “Mad Man” Bill Ford

September 24
03:00 2015

Harrison Long | Editorial Writer


William Ford has performed with his band in front of screaming crowds at the Nokia Theatre in New York City. He’s served as the chair of two prominent Dallas-Fort Worth advertising agencies. He has designed for companies like Disney, Frito Lay and Southwest Airlines.

Now, in addition to singing as a front-man for blues band Bona Fide Blues, senior Mayborn lecturer William Ford also heads and advises UNT’s advertising agency, SWOOP.

Savannah Collins, a senior advertising student and president of SWOOP, was shocked when she initially found out about Ford’s side hustle.

“I just went up to him and said, ‘Ford, it’s like you’re leading a whole other life,’” she said. “And he just nonchalantly shrugged and said, ‘Yeah.’”

Ford and the Bona Fide Blues began playing when he was teaching advertising at Southern Methodist University.

“Usually we would play just for fun, but after we got a gig at a fundraiser in Oak Cliff, the other band members and I began to take it more seriously,” Ford said.

The former ad man said blues was a natural choice, as he grew up listening to classics like The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin.

“All of those bands are blues bands,” he said, “and some of their songs redefined the genre.”

When he isn’t jamming onstage, Ford also enjoys focusing on the advertising industry.

He said one of his favorite shows to watch is “Mad Men,” a seven-season undertaking that brought the advertising industry to the public eye. Set in New York City, the AMC drama series follows the fictional Sterling Cooper advertising agency and the career of creative director Don Draper (Jon Hamm).

“If I were most like anyone on the show, I would say I’m most like Don Draper–minus the incessant boozing and womanizing of course,” Ford said. “I can identify with all of the other characters in the show, however, because I’ve met people like each of them at some point in my career.”

Ford pointed out a major oversight in the show, claiming the agency on the show misrepresented the scale in which employees would have to work for each client.

“They had far too few employees to have been representing clients like Ocean Spray or Jaguar,” he said.

Collins said she fell in love with advertising after taking Ford’s introduction class a few years ago.

“As a professor he is very straightforward, but in [SWOOP] he is so cool,” she said. “He is like a dad in that he always has advice but draws the respect of everyone and has a very real persona.”

Collins said the greatest advice Ford had ever passed to the colloquial SWOOP-ers was the counter-intuitive phrase, “The client is not always right.” Collins said this was both inspiring and reassuring, as many interactions the SWOOP agency has with clients can be anxiety-inducing.

In addition to his career as an advertising man and musician, Ford has been all over the world, even leading the Mayborn School of Journalism trip to London this past summer. Senior broadcast journalism major Josh Kerber attended the recent tour.

“Ford is a very adventurous guy, and I really appreciate that he volunteered his time to accompany some of us across the pond,” Kerber said. “I know the [advertising] students appreciated the trips to foreign agencies that he organized.”

Ford said the pinnacle of his musical career has been his performance at Battle of the Ad Bands in New York City. In addition to performing for cheering fans at Times Square, Bona Fide Blues won second place.

“We played a song called ‘Oreo Cookie Blues,’” he said. “So as a gimmick, I walked out on to the stage ramp and threw Oreos into the crowd. They ate it up.”

After the curtain fell following their set, Ford turned to his band mates with a smile.

“Enjoy it, guys,” he said. “This is as good as it’s gonna get!”

Featured Image: Bill Ford poses in his office Wednesday afternoon. Meagan Sullivan | Associate Visuals Editor

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