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jordan's star rises

Meanwhile, a new star was rising to the east, over on Lexington. In 1953 James Jordan had begun a steady rise up the creative ladder at BBDO. His breakthrough came in 1968 when he authored "ring around the collar" for Wisk, a liquid detergent from Lever Bros. His medley of hits went on to include taglines such as "Delta is ready when you are," "Soup so chunky you can eat it with a fork" for Campbell's and "Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch" for American Tobacco. In 1968 he was head of BBDO's entire creative operation and would soon be president of the company's U.S. advertising unit.

All this was a prelude to 1978, when, at 48, he opened James Jordan Inc. at 405 Lexington, catering to such name accounts as Gillette, Pillsbury, RJR Foods, Drackett (Miracle White and Renuzit) and Welch Foods, plus new product assignments for Campbell's, Quaker and Bristol-Myers. Within two years he had a $40 million agency.

Messrs. McGrath and Jordan first met around 1979. Their agencies were of roughly equal size and, with the exception of one account, presented no conflicts. "We had terrific client lists," says Mr. McGrath, "and cultures that I think were warm and comfortable." Serious merger talks got underway during the summer of 1980, and by September Case & McGrath became Jordan, Case & McGrath.

The first important piece of new business for the combined agency arrived the following February, and significantly furthered the agency's position in the OTC pharmaceutical category.

theragran joins roster

On Feb. 15, 1981, E. R. Squibb & Sons assigned $10 million in advertising for its Theragran M brand to JC&M. Theragran was then the leading brand in the multi-vitamin category, a position that owed much to a seven-year campaign by Grey Advertising using an endorsement by tennis star Billie Jean King.

By March, however, JC&M reached its first major decision on the new account: Ms. King's celebrity was outshining the product, and a new campaign was needed. Giving a fresh spin to the old Philip Morris "Johnny" campaign ("Call for Philip Morris-s-s"), the agency hired actor Michael Jeter to play a Western Union man delivering a "Theragram" to a woman. It may have been the only time in history that the spelling of a major brand had been changed -- "gran" became "gram" -- to accommodate an ad. The new campaign broke on the "Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson Monday May 4, 1981.

not so trivial

Also in the '80s, JC&M spearheaded one of the decade's biggest cultural crazes -- Trivial Pursuit, which was introduced in the U.S. in April 1983 and which went on to generate various editions for Baby Boomers, young people and other niches.

In December 1984 the agency purchased Bloom & Gelb, an eight-year-old direct mail agency billing $15 million, which JC&M had been working with in connection with some of its own clients. It would not be a successful merger. In July 1986, after less than two years together, B&G and JC&M went their separate ways in an amicable divorce.

steady growth path

By the mid-1980s JC&M had been on a steady growth path for more than 15 years and had reached $200 million in billings by 1985. That same year the agency became Jordan, Case, Taylor & McGrath when John Taylor, who had come to the company with the Jordan merger, became a full partner.

But Pat McGrath had not forgotten that he had once run seven Procter & Gamble accounts at Benton & Bowles. Nor did he permit P&G to forget it. He had no illusions in 1969 that any part of the account would follow him to Case and Krone; P&G did not deal with start-up agencies. But he made phones calls, sent notes and "patrolled the halls" of the company any time he could invent an excuse to go to Cincinnati.

landing p&G business

The merger with Jim Jordan in 1980 greatly strengthened the agency's appeal and credentials. The only thing P&G respects more than someone who has created a great campaign for one of its products is someone who has created a great campaign for one of its competitors' products. Mr. Jordan's work for Lever's Wisk did not go unnoticed in Cincinnati.

In 1985 Messrs. McGrath and Jordan were summoned to Ohio on typically short notice. They returned with the agency's first P&G business, the $10 million Zest bath soap account. It capped a banner year for the agency, which scored a growth leap of 27% in new business and expanded existing business. Billings for 1986 would be more than $230 million.

While JCT&M was enjoying its growth, in 1986, J. Walter Thompson was trying to figure out what was stalling its own. A slowdown in new business led to a major reorganization in which Burt Manning, 54, chairman-CEO of the U.S. company, was passed over for the top worldwide job. Mr. Manning made no secret of his discontent.

manning signs on

"I received several offers to head other U.S. agencies," he recalls, "but I'd done that. So I was looking for something stimulating and refreshing. I'd known Jim Jordan for years and also Pat, so there was a very collegial quality about going there. But more important, it let me get back into the advertising process itself, a lot of which you have to delegate when you're running a large operation."

Mr. Jordan and Mr. Manning had discussed partnership prospects at several junctures. In August 1986 Mr. Manning decided "to create advertising again."

"I liked the way they stayed in the advertising business," he told Advertising Age at the time. "I looked on it wistfully as I rose in the clouds at JWT."

Mr. Manning took a one-third equity position, and his name was inserted into an already lengthy agency nameplate. Thus, JCT&M became Jordan, Manning, Case, Taylor & McGrath.

feeling their (quaker) oats

The dividends were immediate. Within two weeks Quaker shifted $20 million in business to the agency from BBDO, which had conflict problems after its acquisition by Omnicom. It was the largest new business win in the agency's history, according to Mr. Manning. The winning campaign was the work of Mr. Jordan, who scribbled a line on a scrap of paper while riding in a car with Mr. McGrath.

The line was "It's the right thing to do," soon to be personified in commercials featuring actor Wilford Brimley.

Also that summer the agency took on its second major P&G brand, Bounty paper towels, which brought its P&G billings to $14,125,000.

The length of the agency's nameplate was unexpectedly shortened after only 11 months. On July 13, 1987, Martin Sorrell's WPP Group bought up JWT, a move that cleared the way for the repatriation of several disgruntled former JWT executives. Highest on Mr. Sorrell's list of exiles was Mr. Manning, who was offered the CEO prize he had been denied under the old regime. No one could blame him for accepting the offer.

"Leaving Jordan was a tough, agonizing decision," Mr. Manning says, "because it was a wonderful agency with a great sense of comradeship. Pat always cut to the core of things and didn't have an ounce of pretension in him. In the end it wasn't a matter of money or perks from JWT. It was an emotional decision. I'd been [at JWT] for many years and thought I could finish what I'd started."

manning returns to jwt

Two days after the WPP consummation, Mr. Manning was back at JWT, and the agency became Jordan, McGrath, Case & Taylor.

Somewhat less abrupt was the coming and going of creative director Malcolm MacDougall, who was brought in by Mr. Jordan in 1987. Messrs. Jordan and MacDougall were colleagues from BBDO days. But Mr. MacDougall's "entrepreneurial itch," as Mr. McGrath called it recently, led him to form his own agency at age 60. When he left Jordan McGrath in February 1990, the agency was above the $300 million mark in billings, with a ranking of 53rd among American shops.

The '90s saw three other significant departures. In 1993, Mr. Case, then 56, left to join Farago Advertising, a fledgling high-tech agency, and Mr. Taylor, 60, retired. Then Mr. Jordan, 64, retired as chairman in April 1995. The agency maintained its name until in 1998, when it became Jordan, McGrath, Case & Partners.

grooming new leaders

Although Mr. Case would later return, it was clear to Mr. McGrath that a new generation of management had to be brought into position. Among those he turned to was Stephen Badenhop, who had come to the agency from Warwick, Welsh & Miller in April 1981 as the first account executive hired after the merger with Jordan. Today Mr. Badenhop is president and is at the center of the agency's second-generation top management circle.

The circle also includes executive creative director Ilon Specht, whose career took off at McCann-Erickson in the '70s when she authored the famous L'Oreal campaign, "I'm worth it."

Steve Farella came to the agency in 1992 after unsuccessfully trying to put together a media consortium that included Jordan McGrath.Today he is chief of "integrated communications."

"Traditional media are not how consumers are influenced any more," Mr. Farella says. "They are too fragmented. What we're trying to do here is get away from a myopic view of media, to evolve our media planning group into a communications strategy group capable of utilizing all the vehicles out there and understanding how our target audience is exposed to messages. That is the future."

Mr. Farella's holistic visions of media were not the only fronts on which the agency was reevaluating itself. Before the founding generation departed, Mr. McGrath took measures to expand the agency's service menu. He moved briefly into public relations, and JMCT Health was set up briefly in 1990 to market special physicians' skills.

But the strongest commitment to the healthcare field came last year. With about half of the agency's billings now in OTC healthcare brands (from Novartis, SmithKline Beecham and Pharmacia & Upjohn), JMC&P acquired Toltzis Communications, a Trevose, Penn., medical agency billing $39 million, and the Medical Education Group, also in Trevose. Both continue to operate under their respective names as JMC&P subsidiaries.

The agency had been edging into Hispanic marketing in the '80s, relying largely on the creative work of freelancer Marta Ferreira-Pero for Nestle, Zest and other clients. By the end of the decade,volume had grown to where Ms. Ferreira-Pero was able to persuade management to let her build a permanent Hispanic division within the agency, and she became its creative director.

Her principal rationale: simple translation does not constitute Hispanic advertising. In the spring of 1989 JMCT Publicidad was set up. Today it has a staff of 14.

"As recently as 10 years ago," says Ms. Ferreira-Pero, "many major accounts were still in the hands of general market agencies. The work was haphazard and often offensive, with voices retracked or actors dubbed in commercials. The message to the target was 'you're not important enough to warrant tailored advertising.' "

beware language traps

Marketers going it alone have also fallen into notorious language traps, she adds, pointing out that Chevrolet once marketed a model called Nova. In Spanish, she says, with the syllables divided, the phrase means "it doesn't run." By the same token, housewives in Spain and Mexico regularly purchase Bimbo sandwich bread, a brand that would need rewording in the U.S.

To avoid such traps, JMCP Publicidad insists on starting from scratch, staying close to the general market advertising in terms of synergies. "Products have their own identities," she explains, "and Hispanics are not living in a vacuum.

"But the work we do is really independent," she says. "We go for the critical insight that we find in our consumer, build a strategy on it and create the advertising."

More recently, the agency has embraced the Internet. In October 1997 Cheryl Benton brought 20 years of high-tech expertise to build the agency's first interactive services department. Fifteen months ago, much of her job involved the missionary work of selling it to clients. Today, she says, they're coming to her.

"We're different from a lot of other groups," says Ms. Benton, whose nine-person operation includes a mini-creative department. "Being part of a full-service agency, we know our clients' business from the bottom up because we work closely with the people who work with the clients."

One of her favorite case histories concerns Bounty. By picking the online environments that cater to young mothers -- such as Women's Wire, and Parent Soup -- Bounty messages mingle with the online editorial in the same way they would in a magazine. But unlike magazines, she says, the consumer can interact with a Web message, play a game or ask for a free sample, all options the agency has created for Bounty.

"Another client we've had success with," says Ms. Benton, "is SmithKline Beecham's Nicorette and Nicoderm CQ. Last New Year's we went into a lot of health sites with an ad that lets [visitors] calculate how much they would save if they quit smoking.

"The Internet options in healthcare are extraordinary because people are seeking information. And the nice thing is that you know precisely how many people you are reaching. You can constantly test, measure and adjust with different sites and networks of sites."

If the agency found it easy to climb aboard the Internet, it's been slower to gauge the importance of the global picture. In an October 1996 article in Advertising Age, Mr. McGrath, after watching a decade of intercontinental networking, seemed to take a strong stance against the pressures of the global game.

Thus came promise No. 2: "It's been our careful appraisal of various international opportunities," he wrote, "that's convinced us we will produce better business results . . . by sticking to North America."

Two years later, with many of his best current and wished-for clients marketing globally, Mr. McGrath reversed himself. "It wasn't that we were losing new business pitches," he says today, reflecting on one of the reasons he reconsidered. "It was that we were not getting invited to pitch those accounts in the first place."

In June of last year the agency, flush with billings of more than $580 million, began talks with Euro RSCG. The process moved slowly in the first months, then suddenly kicked into high gear during December. For Euro RSCG the merger would bring a wealth of healthcare business as well as two prominent P&G brands that would complement what it already had in Chicago at Euro RSCG/Tatham. For JMC&P it would presumably mean getting in on those missed new business pitches.

On Jan. 19, the agency became part of Euro RSCG and Havas, the world's seventh-largest agency holding company, with billings of $7.7 billion. It's new name: Jordan, McGrath, Case & Partners/Euro RSCG. The purchase price was not disclosed, though the standing rule of thumb would have put it at just under $60 million. Mr. McGrath says only, "a lot." He had distributed some agency equity among about 40 senior staffers, including Gene Case, who returned to the agency in recent years. But Mr. McGrath held the majority interest in the agency when the sale came.

The irony turned out to be that, for all the worries about an independent Jordan, McGrath not being up to the needs of P&G's global business units, it was a sister agency, Euro RSCG/Tatham (that handled P&G brands in both the U.S. and Europe), that found its business yanked in a matter of weeks. As it turned out, P&G was well-stocked with global agencies and presumably wanted precisely the kind of U.S. focus that Jordan, McGrath could give.

Mr. McGrath would not say he was told in advance of the Euro RSCG/Tatham termination. But according to Mr. Badenhop, P&G had given word of the coming realignment to Mr. McGrath along with assurances his agency would continue to be part of the company's future plans.

Some have noted that when the 64-year-old chief executive retires, the agency will lose the one person with the deepest roots in P&G and with it P&G. Mr. McGrath dismisses such talk, but assures all who ask that whatever happens, he is not planning to go anywhere any time soon.

As for Mr. Badenhop, 52, president and heir apparent, he has his ideas for the future, too. "We have tremendous strength in strategic planning and development," he says. "And we're thrilled to have the global reach we do now.

"But if we could raise the creative sights of the agency, that would be terrific. I would like to become more adventuresome. We have unused creative capacity here, and I want to see it put to work. Our job is to get our clients

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