Jim Webster was my first boss in the advertising agency business. He passed recently following unexpected complications after surgery. He’s what you would describe as a “helluva guy.” I’d like to share a few recollections of the five years I spent with Jim.
Back in 1985, I joined Associated Advertising as a junior copywriter. A fair number of my current staff at Access was not yet born. The agency was thirty years old and well respected in the old school fashion.
Upon learning of my hiring, one of the artists asked where I was from. I told him West Virginia and he said, ‘that’s the place where everyone has like four names like Billy Jim Tom Bob, right?’ Briefly, everyone at Associated had a “Bob” added to their name…Todd Bob, Lindy Bob, Sonia Bob, and, of course, Jim Bob. Jim’s kind of stuck.
Jim was a good writer and a sensible executive who did a good job of guiding the agency through its later years. After leaving Associated, he split time between Smith Mountain Lake and Florida. He and his wife Maria remained active in the industry.
While I could go on about his career, I would prefer to relate five things Jim believed and instilled in me during our five years working together.
Take care of people.
I remember talking to Jim on one of our trips to Emporia where we handled the community bank. He told me that it was critical to develop strong relationships with people, not an identity working with companies. He said that companies merge, go bankrupt, come and go, but good people with whom you develop a genuine relationship will enrich your life as friends, as well as clients. His close friendships with Freda Carper, Ben Givaudan and many others illustrates this.
Never witch hunt.
Things go wrong in this business. While it is important to find out what went wrong and why, there’s no point in destroying people over a mistake.
Jim always tried to find a way to work for smaller clients. He supported John Will Creasy and Julie McDowell in literally hundreds of pro bono projects.
Every day you go to work for another company, so be inquisitive. As an agency copywriter you may be selling hamburgers one day and banking services the next, so stay curious.
Value & respect the advertising community.
The Advertising Federation was important to Jim and he encouraged all of us to be involved. He believed it was the best way to connect younger generations with older professionals, and sales people with the creative group. He told me that you may not always like everyone in your profession, but always respect the advertising community. He was active both locally and on a district level, and was recognized for his dedication with the AAF Silver Medal.
Dave Perry and I had the privilege of sitting down with Jim for a long chat working on the Roanoke Advertising History Project. It’s raw, long and meandering. A conversation among friends. But there’s a lot of wisdom in his thoughts. We welcome you to eavesdrop on our conversation as he wanders through his life in Roanoke advertising.
Finally, I want to thank Jim for taking a chance on a raw kid from West Virginia and giving me a start on my career. Jim Bob, I’ll miss you and I’ll always appreciate what you did for me.