You Learn Something New Every Day… If You’re Paying Attention: What We’ve Learned Over the Last 36 Years.

You Learn Something New Every Day… If You’re Paying Attention: What We’ve Learned Over the Last 36 Years.


J.W.Morton’s History Wall highlights 25 years of clients, associates and great work. Jeff Westrom created this for our 25th anniversary in 2009, and is open for viewing outside our office doors.

“Knowledge is when you learn something new every day.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of the reasons we love advertising is that we’re put in a position to learn something new every day. By choice, we work in several different categories, so every new client acts as an educational adventure — a learning experience about them, their industry and the customers they are trying to reach. It’s what makes this industry so interesting.

Over the last 36 years we’ve worked with a gourmet cookie company and a manure spreader manufacturer. We’ve photographed fashion models for a cosmetology college, as well as thick black sludge removed from recycled engine oil. We’ve worked with celebrities like three-time Tour de France winner, Greg LeMond and booked hotels to put up professional hogs for a TV spot for a pulled-pork restaurant. We’ve worked with George Nissen, the inventor of the trampoline and Jay Schmuecker, the developer of a farm tractor that’s fueled with hydrogen and ammonia.

It is this kind of variety that has allowed us the opportunity to learn something new every day. Here are the top 10 things we have learned over the last three-dozen years:

  1. Teamwork vs Talent. We have employed many of the area’s most talented individuals and we understand that talent is important. However, having people skills and being an active team member are equally important. Today, we are careful about who we hire. We admire talent but we also commend good collaborators, which is why we love the diverse team we’ve assembled at J.W.Morton.
  1. Good chemistry is the catalyst to phenomenal work. There aren’t enough creative ideas in the world to overcome a poor “fit” with a client. It could just be a clash of personalities, or business cultures, or a misunderstanding of processes. Regardless of the reason, chemistry matters. Clients need to like us, and we need to like them.
  1. There’s no place for surprises in client service. Even though we understand this, it is still something we have to work at every day. Constant oversight and communication are the keys to avoiding an unpleasant surprise.
  1. Life tends to balance itself out. We are cautious not to allow ourselves to get too high during the good times because all-too-often the other shoe drops. One of the premier moments in our history was the airing of a Super Bowl commercial that we had created for In our business, a Super Bowl commercial is as good as it gets. One hundred million people saw 30 seconds of our work on a Sunday back in 2012. At the same time, TaxAct was in the process of being sold, and new ownership meant a new agency. Such is business.
  1. It’s not what you know but who you know. This is an old cliché but one that has certainly been true in our business. The vast majority of our new clients come as a result of a referral, often times in new industries. And while we pride ourselves on being marketing problem solvers, we fully understand that a kind word from someone we have helped along the way may actually lead to our next new client relationship.
  1. Creativity is why clients hire us; service is why they keep us. It’s easy to think that — as an ad agency — “creative” is the end-all. Yes, it IS important and it DOES matter. But that’s only half of the story. Solving problems, understanding the client, a high level of service and consistent communication are what builds long-term relationships.
  1. Bad ideas often lead to good ones. We have tried to instill in our team that the door of judgement should remain closed as long as the door of creativity is open. Whether it’s our own internal ideas or our clients’, we strive to allow the free flow of creative thoughts without judgement because you never know when a really bad idea might spawn a great one in the person sitting next to you. Think about it…we convinced a client that it was a good idea to show a boy peeing in a pool on Super Bowl Sunday… that doesn’t happen if creativity is held back early in the process.
  1. My uncle John once told me, “I never started making money, until I stopped worrying about making money.” He was right. When you’re new in business, you tend to focus on what things cost, how to cover the cost, and how to make a margin, etc. But when we shifted our energy to focusing on our client’s problems, rather than our own, the money seemed to take care of itself.
  1. Growth & Prosperity. Part of what has been very rewarding over the last three-dozen years is watching our clients grow and prosper. Certainly, our goal is to facilitate growth and prosperity for all of our clients but, once in a while, we get to be a part of a story where something really takes off.
  1. It’s all about Family & Friends. It was never written down anywhere as part of a mission statement or strategy outline for our company, but we have tried to make our families our number one priority. And as we’ve grown and added staff, we have tried to allow them to do the same. Work is important, but it is probably third on our list of important things.
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