The weekend-long "Thank You Myra" Days included a big concert on
Saturday night and a day of open-house activities at the
Philharmonic Center on Sunday.
The Naples Daily News editorialized that Myra "has given the
community all her best efforts for the past 30 years." And to show
for it, the paper said, the city has a three-story art museum
adjacent to a magnificent symphony hall and black-box theater. The
mission was to combine all the arts -- performing and visual -- in
a single complex under the same management. It's a $100
million-plus nonprofit corporation, debt-free.
Ms. Daniels "has taught us the importance of building a
sustainable business plan in advance," The Naples paper said. "She
taught us the importance of quality. She taught us the importance
of never resting on laurels and always planning the next move."
It seems Myra Janco, from her earliest days growing up in Terre
Haute, Ind., always had a plan. She started her first business,
Janco Party Favors, with the encouragement of her grandmother. Her
grandmother not only backed her financially (lending her rolls of
pennies on which she charged interest of two pennies per hundred),
but gave her some advice Myra never forgot: "Create something that
people want and need, and you'll be successful."
She worked her way through college by holding down two jobs,
editing the Indiana State University weekly newspaper and writing
ad copy for Meis Department Store (taking over for her boss at the
ripe old age of 19). Myra stayed at Meis for six years and then
started her own ad agency. She also became an associate professor
and taught advertising at Indiana University.
Myra is quite a bundle of energy. My wife, Merrilee, and I were
visiting Naples a few years ago and dropped by the Philharmonic
Center. Myra proudly pointed out the high-quality acoustics, the
courtyard gardens with bronzes by Philip Jackson, the beautiful
wood finishes in the theater, the uncluttered galleries. She served
as our teacher and tour guide as we moved through the halls and
past myriad groups of school children there to learn, as the center
explains, "the adventure of the arts." She might be a diminutive
presence, but believe me, she is a powerhouse.
Myra moved her agency to Chicago and bought a house on Michigan
Avenue in Evanston (a block down from where I was raised). Along
the way, she met Draper Daniels.
They met because he wanted to buy her agency. By then, it had
been absorbed by Roche, Rickerd, Henri, Hurst, and Myra was exec
VP. Draper (she said he liked to be called Dan) had made his name
creating the Marlboro Man for Leo Burnett. He left to take a job in
the Commerce Department in the Kennedy administration. When he
returned to Chicago he joined Compton Advertising, but word got
around that he wanted his own company.
A friend of hers told Myra that Draper Daniels might be
interested in her agency, and when they first met in her office he
said: "Miss Janco, I'm so glad to meet you. Now tell me, what do
you think is the best advertising in America right now and
In her book, "Secrets of a Rut Buster," Myra recalls that she
"reluctantly answered his questions, only to find out that he had
others. Question after question, until it began to feel more like
an interrogation than a business meeting."
Draper Daniels said he didn't need to see the agency's financial
statements, because Myra had an honest face. "What you want for the
business will be fine," she quotes him as saying.
A few days later, he wrote a check for two and a half times' the
agency's face value. He was CEO; she was chief operating officer
and president. At the press conference the next day, he introduced
his new partner as "Myrna Junko." She later learned that his
favorite bird was the dark-eyed junk and his favorite actress was
"I learned a lot from Draper Daniels" Myra says in her book. "He
wasn't a great businessman, but he was a brilliant wordsmith who
taught me to state my ideas clearly and concisely, as if I was
talking to one person. ... Dan never stopped being a copywriter.
That was his true passion."
And he knew how to have fun, sometimes a little too much. During
his second week on the job, Dan didn't show up for a meeting and
Myra went to his office to get him. Dan was sitting in his chair
with his head back, his mouth open, snoring. He'd had a business
lunch and drunk four martinis. Myra went down the hall and found a
camera. She snapped a picture of Dan snoozing and asked the
production director to blow up the photo and paste it on the cover
of Time Magazine. Then she wrote the headline "Dynamic Daniels
snores through the day!" They put the magazine on his desk the next
day. "I will not work for a lush," Myra told him. She said he never
again drank during the day.
In 1967, Myra and Draper Daniels got married. He told her he
wanted to stop off at the courthouse. She had not wanted to marry
for at least another year, but he suggested they get a license
anyway. There was an office across the hall where marriages were
performed, and Draper Daniels said, "Myra, let's go ahead and do
it." And they did.
They retired to Marco Island several years later, and he
contracted cancer soon after. He had five operations over the next
four years but couldn't beat it.
After Draper Daniels died, Myra started working with people who
wanted to form a chamber-music ensemble on Marco Island. From there
it grew to a symphony orchestra, then a home for the orchestra,
then an art facility.
Myra led the charge. "I used the same principles I learned in
advertising to sell this community on the arts," she said. "You
have to believe, and then you have to get the community to believe.
You have to get them involved to the point that they feel it's
theirs. That's what we did."