Josh McCall's Seminar with BT

Full Text from Josh McCall’s September 28th Seminar with Business Today

On September 28, 2016, Josh McCall, the Chairman & CEO of Jack Morton Worldwide visited Princeton University to give a BT sponsored talk entitled “A Journey to Extraordinary – From door to door sales to leading a global marketing agency.” In his talk, Mr. McCall covers a brief history of Jack Morton Worldwide, the products that have earned fame and recognition for the firm in the age of “branding experiences”, and lessons from his personal experience that serve as advice to college students and millennials seeking their path into the professional world. The full text from the seminar is as follows:

I'm going to talk a little bit about Jack, talk a little bit about my journey, and share some wisdom that I've gleaned over the course of my career. Our purpose at Jack is to do something extraordinary, because we believe that we can cut through the clutter for brands to really make an impact on the people that matter most to them. We need to make extraordinary experiences for them: experiences that are memorable, experiences that are shareable, and experiences that connect people with that brand to promote it, to advocate it, to talk about it, and ultimately become brand loyalists.

Our objective in working with our clients is to create the brand experience that people will recognize, and last year we were recognized with 88 industry awards for our work around the world: everything from some of the industry’s most prestigious awards for creativity to awards for the effectiveness of our work, both the art and the science if you will. I'm going to take you through 3 more specific examples we have done with T-Mobil, Chevrolet, and the set we designed for the Late Night Show.


So you have a CEO who’s disrupting the wireless service industry with these breakthrough offers which have helped propel T-Mobil beyond Sprint as the number 3 position behind AT&T and Verizon. He has a cult of personality: he is a rock star CEO, he's a very different player than what you would normally see in the world of wireless services. He's created an enormous following amongst his employees/customers and is creating a breakthrough company that is driving results through these experiences and press events that we are helping to design.


The next piece I'm going to show you is a piece for General Motors, who is our largest client at Jack Morton. We help them with all dealer communications, launch events for their new vehicles, and promotion and sponsorship of Manchester United. This is a neat piece of work that speaks to our ability to help our client find an innovative way to give back to the community they work in and the evolving communities around the world that they will ultimately be selling more of their vehicles to. The neat thing about that is that Chevrolet spends a bunch of money to put their logo on the Manchester United jersey, which is seen by tens of millions of people around the world, and they asked us to find an innovative, interesting way to leverage that to a more social cause. We found this company that manufactures this indestructible soccer ball, and we came to them with the idea of going into communities around the world to redesign and recreate these environments where kids can play with this ball in addition to giving them to communities around the world. This is a project we are immensely proud of, due to its innovative and creative nature. There is this whole execution side of how we made it happen in all of these under-priviliged communities around the world: creating these pitches to bring the game back to these areas.

Late Night Show:

The last piece I want to show you is from when Stephen Colbert replaced David Letterman as the host of the Late Night Show, which is filmed every afternoon in Dan Sullivan Theatre in Manhattan. This video shows how we recreated the environment for the show to take place and redesigned the whole broadcast environment and set.

So that's just a little overview of three examples of some of the extraordinary work we do on an ongoing basis all around the world. We categorize what we do into these “offerings”: event marketing, promotional marketing, digital, social, and mobile content marketing, sponsorship, and employee engagement (internal communications for large companies).

A little on my role and focus as Chairman and CEO: My job is not to manage Jack Morton, but rather to grow Jack Morton, as growth is what successful businesses do. It's what creates career opportunities for the staff, what motivates people to become part of an organization. It’s a lot more fun to be part of something growing rather than shrinking, and that's about growth in revenue and profit. I spend a lot of time with our clients, both existing and pitching for new business, which is a lot of fun. If any of you have been involved in athletics like I was, it's game day when you go to a new business presentation: it's all about winning. It’s a competitive environment: there are other agencies presenting their extraordinary ideas, and we have to distinguish ourselves from them. Figuring out how we can outmaneuver and outplay them to win the business is a lot of fun.

In an organization like mine, with 20 operations around the world and nearly a thousand employees, talent is extremely important at both the leadership level and everybody who is running those individual operations. I need great leaders in place in all those businesses, and I have to keep an eye out for who the next generation of leaders are: who the high potential individuals within the organization are, understand their capabilities, and provide opportunities for them to develop and grow within the business. I spend a lot of time on strategy: every year we have a very in depth strategic planning process where we establish what our priorities for the year are, divide the ownership of those priorities among our leadership and executive team, and measure our progress against those priorities throughout the year.

In terms of my particular journey, I'm going to give you a quick rewind starting from door-to-door sales to global marketing agency. I graduated from Penn in 1982. For any of you who studied economics and looked at the history of recessions, 1982 was up there in terms of how difficult a period it was to find a job compared to the 2008 financial crisis. While I was passionate, excited, and interested in pursuing a career in advertising and marketing, there weren't any jobs. All of those jobs were being downsized, eliminated, or cut back due to the economic climate. My first job, with my Ivy League degree and good opportunities with networking, was as a door-to-door salesman selling cable TV subscription. Not exactly what I expected, but at the end of the day it was great training for me, since it taught me about sales. At the end of the day, no matter what path you choose in life, there's an element of sales involved in pretty much every career, every step that you take forward in life. This was the ground floor level, because I had to go out from 3 or 4 o'clock in the afternoon until people started turning out their lights at home, knocking on doors.

One thing led to another, and I was fortunate to knock on the door of a man named Mr. Morton. He wasn't home and his wife wasn't interested in what I was selling, so I went down the street to his neighbor’s house, and he welcomed me with open arms and bought almost everything I could sell him. He asked me, “By the way, did you meet Mr. Morton”, and I said, “No, he wasn't home and his wife wasn't interested”. He said, “I know he’s looking for people to help him grow his business, and I’m going to set up an appointment for you to meet with him.” That was almost 33 years ago, and today I am the third CEO in the 77 year history following Jack Morton and his son Bill, whose wife shut the door in my face. I was the first non-family member to lead Jack Morton Worldwide, so my cable career was fortuitous in a number of different ways and ultimately opened the door to a path that has been tremendously rewarding, fun, challenging, exciting and creative.

This career began in 1984 as what we call an Account Executive, and I had enough success in that role to be promoted to a Vice President of Sales role. I took on regional responsibilities for offices up and down the East Coast and worked with acquisitions to lead and build a human resources operation within the business. I was then made Chief Operating Officer and subsequently named CEO and assumed the Chairman role in 2007. Jack Morton was a private family business when I started, and it has followed the evolution path of many family businesses in which the third generation isn’t really interested in continuing on the business. That was the case of the Morton family: Jack Morton founded the company in 1939, his son grew it and ran it until I succeeded him. Before I succeeded him, the family decided they wanted to sell the firm, and there was an opportunity to join forces and merge into a group of companies that would have the currency of a large publicly traded NYSE company to expand the business internationally through acquisitions. This was 18 years ago, so I’ve spent a little more than half my career at a subsidiary of a larger public company, and the other half as someone in a privately owned family business. As a result I’ve seen and understood the balance, accountability and interesting aspects of both those worlds, which has been very rewarding.

I’d like to talk a bit about the “nuggets” of wisdom I’ve gleaned over the years, the first of which is to follow your passions: look for those signals, those little tidbits that are saying to you, “Hmm, this is something I could be interested in.” I was drawn to the Annenberg School for Communications’ library and I would read Advertising Age, which was the advertising industry trade publication when I was at Penn. I became intrigued by the creativity of commercials and marketing. You are going to spend 5/7ths of your life in your working career, so whatever you decide to do should be something you are incredibly passionate about and feel a connection to, or else you may not be terribly happy with your life.

The second piece is something you should really think about as you prepare to leave college: help. You are going to need a lot of help, you will need to ask for help, and in my opinion, help is the best four letter word in the dictionary. People instinctively love to help each other, but they aren’t necessarily going to do it unless they are asked. I will help every one of you in this room if you ask for my help. I will get great enjoyment and pleasure from that. I cannot guarantee whether it will have a tangible end to it, but I will try because you ask. That’s the way most people are. Remember, if you don’t ask for help, you won’t get it.

When you are faced with difficult decision, do what is right and what is fair. Always ask yourself that question. This will help guide you to a decision at the end of the day that you will feel good about, since there are tough decisions to make: in life, while working with teams, while hiring and firing, while promoting or not promoting, while taking forks in the road.

Lastly, live in the world of hope. There’s a lot that we can become negative about in life. You can get down or negative on things, but on the other side of things, you can be hopeful that everything will work out. The opposite of hope is fear, and there is no reason to live life under the umbrella of fear.

I hope this presentation has given you a quick overview of the exciting world of brand experience marketing and a taste of what we do at Jack Morton Worldwide, and a little bit of my personal journey from door to door sales to leading a global marketing agency. Thank you very much.