The shoulders of a legend.
When I first entered Advertising & Marketing Jamaica Ltd. (Admark) I was bombarded with tales of the world and standards, the history was long. Not by the directors but by others who were more familiar with the agency.
In life, we have several paths that lead us to our demise or our glory. We all gallantly strive for the right to be great but there is no direct path. Greatness remains undefined because you never know when you arrive there, but you look back and see the progress you’ve made.
Lessons taught from unlikely experiences, some more pleasurable than others, but ever so often you have an experience that redirects everything and defines who you are. The entire journey is never always pleasant, but the majority is and although it all has its lessons, it’s the good that makes it all worth it.
This is not the entire story, and perhaps one day I will tell that story. This is a short summary, a tribute, a moment of looking back and being grateful.
My first project was an ad for a telecommunications agency, I was not unfamiliar but I did not want to fail…I spent a mighty long time making it “perfect”. But I was mostly just doing graphic editing, there was no soul in it, I did not want to come off as a know-it-all in such a prestigious agency with many talented people around me.
As familiarity grew with process and expectations, I started to relax and slowly reveal myself, my skills. The Managing Director, Arnold Foote Jr. understood my background and my skillsets, he gave me my first large-scale project for a food and beverage client. This was a full brand identity and packaging for an infant cereal.
I had many memorable projects at the agency, and mistakes…but I realized that Arnold Jr. affectionately known as JJ, did not worry about you failing, he thrived on passion and drive. He wanted you to challenge him, even he had the final say as director. After all, he had an agency to manage, and represent, he stood on tall shoulders but also established himself on his own merits.
JJ was often referred to as many things not unfamiliar in the advertising industry from good and bad, but after seeing him excited about Christmas at the agency I realized there was a fun-loving child still alive there. I often joked when he was annoyed about something, “JJ is having a tantrum”. I did not do this out of disrespect, I was being cheeky in reference to his inner child.
JJ was no child when it came to advertising, and from what I gathered, neither was his father, Arnold Foote Sr. one of the legendary people in Jamaica’s advertising industry. I met him briefly at different times, but as a diplomat, he was not retired to my knowledge, but he was not active with the agency, to my knowledge.
Arnold Foote Sr. was quite gentle and humble but his presence demanded default respect, he himself did not behave in a manner demanding it, but knowledge of how he was asked for nothing less.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to know that after you have reached my age, that the country thought it important enough to honour me in such a manner, and it has really given me a feeling which is so hard to describe and such a wonderful recognition for the work that I try to do,” he said upon receiving the honour.
Two client projects stand out to me to this very day. I was tasked with developing a Christmas catalog for an appliance brand, and after looking through the archives, I decided it was time to update the catalog by taking it in a different direction. The agency directors liked it and took a risk — I found out much later — and presented it to the client, who also loved it. This client thanked the agency and me a lot for the work done going forward, I received a chocolate bar one day — Secret is out, I love chocolate — it was given to me by the Account Director Peter Lampert, if I remember it correctly, he was the Regional Client Services Director. I had or still have a special bond with Peter, he is quick and witty, and very direct. We worked on many projects together.
The second project was an infant cereal, which was a journey that had me back and forth with JJ. The logo was the easy part, after several idea rejections, and JJ repeating, “make it yummy”, I had a packaging layout that started to make sense. At one point in the process, JJ asked me, “Would you eat that? Does that look yummy to you?” I went back to my desk and sketched, trying to figure out what the hell is this supposed to be?
I stopped, went outside for one of my regular cigarette breaks…
After a few days of not diving in on execution, I revised the idea. I thought about taste and the word yummy, I tried to put my mind in that of a child, a parent, a baby. I passed a new idea by some colleagues, they offered their input and I made my own adjustments based on the criticism. I finally received a yes from JJ! He actually stamped it with a Facebook stamp that said “Like” or it was the ubiquitous Facebook thumb, I am not sure now.
My point is, like his father, JJ cared about greatness but he did not expect you to be great right away, he wants to see you put the effort in, I understood this. I considered every project a challenge to do something new and unexpected.
I learned that we stand on the shoulders of many great people, people we don’t know, people that people we know also stand on. They set standards and these standards are passed down to each of us.
I have never really known Arnold Foote Sr., but I knew the presence I was in whenever I was around him, and that greatness was also passed on to his son. I am sure JJ also did not have an easy climb to his position, but he learned a lot from his father that he has added to over the years. Yes, he made it his own, and he added himself, his own approach, and adapted the agency to a new age. But that’s the point, you have to know where you stand before you can implement changes.
JJ understood this, everyone who worked at Admark understood that the expectation outside the agency doors was always high. Not every day was your best day, not every day was great, but you felt the desire to deliver. No matter what, you would proudly say you worked at Advertising and Marketing Jamaica because it meant something.
‘Marketing guru, former diplomat Arnold Foote passes’
“Foote thrived in what is universally accepted as a highly competitive advertising industry; and for several decades, had every finger in Jamaica’s advertising and marketing pie, learning the business inside out and spearheading some of the biggest local and overseas campaigns.
As founder and CEO of Advertising & Marketing (Jamaica) Ltd (AdMark) in 1964, Foote was the power behind what was to emerge as one of the leading agencies in Jamaica, cranking up the firm’s creative engine and making innovation its signature.” — jamaica-gleaner.com
I found out about the passing of Arnold Foote Sr. and I was inspired to write this as a tribute to him and to his family, some of who I have the pleasure of knowing and worked with. Another of the great Jamaicans in Advertising has passed. Arnold Foote Sr. was more than advertising, he was known for his diplomatic duties and respected by all. I worked for his agency, Advertising and Marketing Jamaica ( affectionately known as admark — AdMark — an FCB Alliance Agency ) under the leadership of his son Arnold Foote Jr. It was my longest employment in any company.
My love and condolences to the family.