"In June of 1977 in the Cherryvale Mall in theater No. 3 is where I first saw 'Star Wars,' and I remember it to this day," Mr. Ward said. "It was a moment in time where I saw the possibilities of what technology married with art could bring. That rocked my world."
The world rocks on for Mr. Ward, who last week started as head of marketing at "Star Wars" creator Lucasfilm (AA, June 9).
Mr. Ward, 37, stepped down as worldwide account director on Nike at Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., to take the new post, where he will oversee marketing and branding for George Lucas' two signature franchises, "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones."
NEW TRILOGY KICKS OFF IN '99
Key challenge: bringing to market three new "Star Wars" films starting in 1999, building on the initial trilogy.
The return of "Star Wars" "is probably going to be the most anticipated movie event of all time," Mr. Ward said.
"Without doing anything, you could have the largest hyped event in the industry history. So marketing I think has an interesting challenge in managing expectations and hype," he noted.
Mr. Lucas has long lived outside the Hollywood clique and claque, and he picked an outsider to run marketing. Mr. Ward has spent his career at agencies, running global accounts of Nike, Microsoft Corp. and Apple Computer.
Mr. Ward has made his career communicating great global brands run by dynamic leaders who changed their industries: Nike's Phil Knight, Microsoft's Bill Gates and Apple's John Sculley, CEO during the heyday of Apple's brand and advertising.
Mr. Ward now faces the challenge of working with another visionary on a movie franchise that will cross the millennium.
"*'Star Wars' is more than a product," said free-lance copywriter Chris Wall, who worked with Mr. Ward as creative director on Apple and Microsoft. "It's something special, part of our culture. 'Star Wars' is successful because it is special, not because of marketing ploys or sales gimmicks. Jim Ward is one of the few people I've met who intuitively understands the difference between the usual formula and something genuinely different."
Mr. Ward said he was not looking to exit Wieden when the headhunter called, "but you can't always pick timing."
LIFELONG MOVIE FANATIC
Mr. Ward is a lifelong movie fanatic. He typically watches two films in a weekend and used to start Monday meetings at BBDO Worldwide by asking colleagues about movies they had seen.
Mr. Lucas' mastery of films, brand franchises and technology to create special effects meshes neatly with the interests of Mr. Ward.
"He is a film buff and a sci-fi buff as well as one of the smarter straight-shooters on the planet," said Steve Hayden, president-worldwide brand services on IBM Corp. at Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, and former chairman of BBDO in Los Angeles. "It's hard to imagine a better match for Lucasfilm than Jim