The Real Joe D

Last month, we celebrated Edelman’s 65th birthday. This month, we mark a bittersweet milestone in our history: Jody Quinn’s retirement after 40 years with the firm.

Her father named her Joanne but dubbed her Jody after Joe D, New York Yankees great Joe DiMaggio. It’s not every daughter who gets a nickname from her dad that honors one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Nor is it every CEO who has a wingman for life... well for 39 years to be specific.

If you know or have worked with Jody, as I have for my entire career, you know that she is everything that is Edelman. She embodies the principles on which my father founded this company — the determination to be the best, an unwavering commitment to client service, and a non-stop drive for success.

She started in our fledgling New York office on November 1, 1977 — a year before I joined the firm — as its 11th employee. Hired as a junior account executive with solid New York and national media contacts, her first focus was scoring story placements for our Chicago-based consumer accounts, such as Colonel Sanders (the real one), Morris the Cat, the original Butterball Turkey Talk-Line, and more.

She was my right hand in building our New York office. We were a bunch of kids who were too young to know what we could not do, so we did some amazing things.

One moment among many still sticks with me: 1982, the biggest pitch of our careers — and perhaps the first we did all on our own (i.e., without Dan). We were the darkest horse in the pitch for Fujifilm‘s 1984 Summer Olympics sponsorship. Jody had the audacious and brilliant idea to bring the renowned — and about-to-be-former Kodak film user — Sports Illustrated photographer Walter Iooss, Jr., to the presentation and commit to leaving SI to photograph the athletes trying to make the U.S. Team. Guess who won?

As we began to build our own portfolio, so did Jody’s nerve. A windsurfing race around the Statue of Liberty to launch Kronenbourg Beer from France. A national search among school children for a Real American Hero to support Hasbro’s re-introduction of GI Joe. A promotional tie-in for 1940s radio show presenter Ovaltine as the official sponsor of national auditions for “Annie: The Movie.” And introducing Evian water to the U.S. by comparing its purity to tap water in Beverly Hills and other tony markets. Among other hair-raising adventures.

Throughout Jody’s time at Edelman, she has demonstrated the values that underlie our work and the true meaning of Dan’s career advice to always be an account executive. Constantly curious, continuously learning and resolved to do the right thing for clients and teams, Jody broke much unchartered ground.

  • Laid the foundation and created a structure for New York’s consumer division that reflected our Chicago heritage, but with distinct differences in expertise beyond traditional packaged goods. We pursued and won our fair share of retail accounts, as well as tourism and consumer electronics/tech.
  • Built the basis for our firm’s considerable Olympics and sports marketing expertise with programs not only for Fujifilm, but also for VISA, IBM, UPS and Johnson & Johnson, as well as Nike and the U.S. Tennis Association.
  • Pioneered our entry into integrated marketing by corralling creative offers, celebrity influencers, sports, experiential and entertainment into a multi-platform subsidiary as MATTER, now evolved into United Entertainment Group.

Internally, Jody has been equally protective and supportive of partners and teams. She was the co-creator of the original Edelman University, and is a sought-after presentation trainer. I’m always amused when I hear that someone is surprised she’s stayed up late or arrived extra early to handle rewrites, help prepare for presentations, collate leave-behinds, etc. In one famous incident, Jody literally jumped back into the taxi she’d just exited at LaGuardia Airport to take her back to a client meeting, following a team member’s panicked call that the program had just fallen apart. A few hours later, we were back on track.

All this and more while raising two children and, in 2000, making the decision to relocate the entire family to Chapel Hill, NC, so her boys could experience a different part of the country.

This space simply can’t capture her impact as a pioneer, colleague, or friend.

Jody fundamentally changed this firm over the course of her career. We are forever grateful, and we will always be inspired by her. She is the best of Edelman. Period.

Richard Edelman is president and CEO.