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FORUM;HOME IS ALSO WHERE THE PROSPERITY IS;JORDAN MCGRATH KEEPS FOCUS ON NORTH AMERICA; FORGOES FEVER TO GO GLOBAL

By Published on .

"There have to be priority decisions . . . What people find difficult is to decide on posteriorities, that is, what should not be done. Unless the really first-rate resources are put full time on the few outstanding opportunities, priorities have not really been set."

Peter F. Drucker

"Managing for Results," 1964

Because those words appeared in print five years before our agency opened its doors, Mr. Drucker couldn't actually have had Jordan, McGrath, Case & Taylor in mind. Yet there's no more eloquent response to certain questions we encounter frequently today: When is the agency going to set up or join a network of offices around the world? Why is one of America's largest independent agencies still doing business from its New York office, a couple of blocks from where we started in 1969?

Certainly those are responsible questions, even when posed in a manner suggesting we've somehow failed to notice that so many U.S. agencies have expanded or affiliated abroad.

Not true; we've watched with keen interest. Among our clients are some of the largest, most successful global marketers. We'd be very shortsighted not to look seriously at anything that might enable us to help them grow and prosper.

SINGLE-MINDED FOCUS

Indeed, it's been our careful appraisal of various international opportunities that's convinced us we'll produce better business results for our clients by sticking to North America as a full-time job. Because that single-minded focus of our talents pays off in stronger, harder-working advertising. And that's what our clients tell us they want most of all.

In virtually any selling endeavor, the closer your relationship with your customer-the more fully you understand and relate to him or her as an individual-the more effectively you can communicate with that customer, sell that customer, serve that customer and keep that customer.

Earlier this year, speaking to Procter & Gamble's worldwide advertising organization, its leader, Robert L. Wehling, said, "Our local organizations, where the rubber meets the road, must deeply understand their consumers and the markets in which they do business, to develop the insights that inspire great advertising and implement the marketing plans that ultimately produce profitable share growth."

To that we say, amen.

300 MIL CUSTOMERS

There are nearly 300 million of our clients' current and prospective customers in the U.S. and Canada. That mass of humanity is as diverse, complex and dynamic as it is huge. And what each of those customers thinks, feels, wants and buys has been known to change overnight. Establishing and maintaining a deep, almost personal understanding of so many different people is no small undertaking, yet it's the proven route to relevant, persuasive and ownable selling ideas.

Our clients recognize that such ideas, having the immense power to lift brands, are their ultimate engines of growth. We've consciously elected to make the complex, demanding mission of creating those ideas our agency's top priority. That means, in heeding Mr. Drucker's advice, we regard the vastly different task of transporting brand equities to distant shores as a posteriority. Most of our clients have separate resources in place to carry out that job.

Our clients also recognize that for every global brand, every global equity has to start somewhere. Frequently, we and our clients discover that the most powerful brand strategy in our domestic market can also become the most powerful in others. Then we collaborate with the client's local marketing people and agencies on its translation to their cultures and languages. The inspiration for more than a few campaigns at work for our clients today in dozens of countries originated at JMCT. But, in every case, the first and only goal JMCT set out to accomplish was to maximize the success of that brand right here in North America. That's exactly what we did, for example, in repositioning Tums as a calcium supplement. When the proposition turned out to be exportable, it was a plus for Smith-Kline Beecham.

"YES, BUT . . ."

Often, after explaining that JMCT has stuck close to home because it's helped us do the most effective work, we get one of those "yes, but" questions: Yes, but aren't you turning your backs on revenue? Undoubtedly we're making posteriorities of some revenue opportunities, though simply to make true priorities of others we consider more promising. We all recognize that in marketing there's no more efficient way to grow than by winning heavy users. For many products and services, America will long continue to represent the world's "heavy user segment." The U.S., with fewer than 5% of the world's consumers, accounts for 29% of the world's expenditures for frozen foods, uses 24% of the world's energy, buys more than double the number of cars of any other country, and has total consumer spending of $5 trillion.

Concentrating the agency's resources where all that demand is concentrated has brought us solid, steady growth. Nevertheless, our $500 million in billings adds up to merely a fraction of 1% of North American advertising expenditures. By focusing on the remaining 99%, we should be able to triple or quadruple our volume without worrying about hitting a ceiling in this market.

KEEPING IT SIMPLE

It's been more than 30 years since Mr. Drucker penned the words that opened this discussion, urging businesses to keep it simple and focus on what they do best. Since then, the world has witnessed what that philosophy has meant for organizations which, like our agency, were not the ones in Mr. Drucker's mind: Wal-Mart, Southwest Airlines, Lands' End, Schwab, Federal Express and certain others. His advice has served JMCT well, and we remain committed to it. The only assets of inestimable value to our clients are the business-building ideas we create for them. And for those ideas truly to remain our top priority, plunging into what The Wall Street Journal recently called "the scramble by ad agencies to become global powerhouses" must remain top posteriority.

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