Credits Illness for Career Course Correction

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A common case of tonsillitis helped Susan Gianinno catch the advertising bug.

While pursuing a doctorate in behavioral science, Ms. Gianinno, 47, current exec VP-general manager of J. Walter Thompson USA, New York, was set to take a research grant to work in New Guinea. But she decided to turn down the offer because of concerns her tonsillitis-stricken daughter would be susceptible to infection. So Ms. Gianinno detoured from the research project and instead joined Needham, Harper & Steers in Chicago.

"I had a major course correction," she says of the switch to advertising.

Now, Ms. Gianinno is a key player in JWT's new management team, along with CEO Chris Jones and Vice Chairman-Chief Creative Officer Helayne Spivak, that will guide the shop into the future.

"She's an impressive professional, she has a fine mind. Her future is very bright. She has the brain power and an extremely impressive set of credentials," says Burt Manning, chairman, J. Walter Thompson Co.

Ms. Gianinno has 17 years of experience in the business and still finds her behavioral science know-how useful.

"It helps to hone skills on how to approach problems," she says. "It also gives me the knowledge of people and culture."

With 12 years at Y&R Advertising and another two at BBDO Worldwide, Ms. Gianinno has experience in managing clients, directing research, and working on positioning and strategic planning.

On the new-business front, Ms. Gianinno played a key role in bringing JWT the worldwide Schick/Wilkinson assignment when Warner-Lambert Shaving Products Group consolidated that account last summer. She also had an essential part in helping JWT gain the DeBeers Consolidated Mines account.

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