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Interview with Jo Ann Ross
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Interview with Jo Ann Ross
LS:

Jo Ann, let's start from the beginning. Tell us how you came to be in advertising in the first place.

JR:

How did I get into advertising? I was very lucky. Originally, I was working retail.

I went to college, and at the time, I thought I was going to be a lawyer. I went to Oneonta State for two years and then to American University for two years. I graduated from American and majored in government/political science/pubic administration. I got out of college and realized that until I passed the LSATs and applied to law school, I needed to get a job. Since I had grown up in Long Island, I came back to New York and started working in retail. Although it was not what I wanted to do with my life, I loved working retail. But I found that I had no life whatsoever, because in retail, you had to work on Saturdays.

So I quickly starting looking around, trying to figure out what could I do. What could I get with a Monday through Friday job? One of my dear friends from high school was in advertising. She worked at a small agency, and her dad worked at an agency. She said "Why don't you go in and see my father and see if you can start entry level?" I did. That was Bozell and Jacobs. I started working in the network buying department for her dad, who was a man by the name of Paul Wigand. He taught me everything I know.

That was the beginning! They didn't have secretaries, and they didn't have administrators, so you were an assistant. I was a network assistant and kind of did everything that he asked me to do. I worked for him and a couple of other vice presidents. He was a senior vice president running the network buying operations. He taught me how to read a pocket piece—which no one even reads anymore—how to type a memo, how to communicate trafficking instructions and commercial allocations, and how to make a network television buy. I worked there with him for quite some time. Then I left for a very brief period in 1984, to go to Young & Rubicam and work in the network buying group as a supervisor. At the end of that summer, Paul, my prior boss at Bozell, called and said that his number two was leaving to go sell network radio, and would I come back? I really had only been gone from March through the end of August.

When I went back, my salary doubled from what I was making and they gave me a vice presidency title. I stayed there and took Paul's job when he retired. So I was the first woman to run a network buying operation. I was there until ABC hired me in 1989.

In May of 1989, I went over to ABC to sell. I started out as a daytime account executive and got promoted shortly thereafter to prime time. I really loved ABC. I was on the fast track there and thought it would be the last company I would ever work for. I loved it. I loved the people. I loved the selling. Then Joe Abruzzese, who was my predecessor here, called on me when I was a buyer, basically came after me. They wanted me to come over and do any number of things. I kept saying that I wouldn't leave ABC for CBS to sell—you have to give me something better than just an account executive job. Finally, he came up with the proposal that I would run the Olympic sales group for the Lillehammer Olympics. No woman had ever been in charge of Olympic sales. I went over in November of 1992. I've been here ever since. It's hard to believe it has been that many years.

So, in short, I got started because I got tired of working Saturdays in retail and going to Tuesday matinees by myself! Everyone would be going away...