In 1971, after graduating from college, I followed my father’s advice... “you’ve got to be the best, regardless of what the job is, son, whatever you do in life ” He went on to tell me that if my job was shoveling manure (my word, not his. He fought at the Battle of The Bulge so his language was a tad more direct.) Anyway he told me I needed to “be the best manure shoveler in the group in order to stand out from the crowd.” So off I went, resume in one hand, student loans in the other and found a job in the next best career to manure shoveling, I went to work as an ad guy on Madison Avenue.
Why advertising you ask? Well in the words of SH Britt... “Doing business without advertising is like winking at a pretty girl in the dark. You know what you’re doing, but nobody else does.”
I’m extremely thankful that over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work with Fortune 500 Companies and CEOs including; Continental Airlines, Cherokee Clothing & Apparel, Papa John’s Pizza, Dean Foods, ABC-TV, Giant Industries, Smart Car, Infiniti, and Honda just to name a few.
It has been a privilege over the course of my career to have been able to serve in key management positions as President, Chief Strategy Officer and Partner at various regional, national and international ad agencies such as; Needham Harper WorldWide, Foote, Cone & Belding, McCann-Erickson and Rick Johnson & Company.
My destination, tourism, and civic branding experience hopefully will serve me well in my position as Lee’s Summit Community Brand Manager. My previous experience includes spearheading branding campaigns for The Islands of Tahiti (best job ever), the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, State of New Mexico Department of Tourism, City of Roswell (N.M.), City and County of Santa Fe (N.M.), Las Cruces (N.M.), Albuquerque Economic Development, and numerous retail, resort, hotel and gaming venues. I’ve also headed up marketing programs for hospitals, including a cancer center and children’s hospital, land development and real estate companies, and a chain of senior living retirement resort properties.
The two awards I value most have come far away from Madison Avenue. For five years I taught Marketing in the evenings at the University level. I loved it and I was named Adjunct Professor of the Year by the students and faculty at the University of New Mexico. Then, just last year I
was named the Ad Person of the Year, by the American Advertising Federation. The award, which was established over a half-century ago, recognizes a single individual’s contributions in the area of creative excellence and social responsibility within the advertising industry.
As Community Brand Manager for the City of Lee’s Summit I’m finally doing something I love; something I look forward to doing each and every day. And a job that has finally captured my heart as well as my brain. I’m surrounded by a talented staff of individuals from every facet of city government where we get to do good work and have fun.
My faith and family are a priority in my life so I consider it an added bonus that my wife and I also get to live within walking distance of our sons, daughters-in-law and three grandsons (all under the age of three). For me, that’s what a meaningful life is all about.
James McKenna is the branding manager for the City of Lee’s Summit. Reach him at JMcKenna@lschamber.- com.