Myra Janco Daniels, Naples Philharmonic Center Cultural Complex

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Myra Janco Daniels, Naples Philharmonic Center Cultural Complex

Myra Janco Daniels
Founder, Chairman and CEO,
Naples Philharmonic Center Cultural Complex

Long before Mad Men grabbed the attention of Americans by chronicling the lives of the ruthlessly competitive men and women of 1960’s Madison Avenue advertising, Myra Janco Daniels was showing everyone how it was done. While in her mid-twenties, Myra entered this male-dominated industry when she launched Wabash Advertising in Terre Haute, Indiana. Within one year, she built it into a million dollar business. As an entrepreneur and pioneer, Myra was the first female to run a national advertising firm and the first woman associate professor of business at the University of Indiana. She was also the youngest female to win the National Advertising Federation’s “Advertising Woman of the Year” award in 1965 – while under the age of 40. Myra is currently the founder, chairman and CEO of the Naples Philharmonic Center Cultural Complex. Her memoir, Secrets of a Rutbuster: Breaking Rules and Selling Dreams, came out in 2009.

RutbusterWhen Myra was attending Indiana State Teachers College, she wanted a job at the Terre Haute Star newspaper. Unfortunately, she was bluntly told by the editor, “We don’t need any paper dolls.” Furious, Myra walked into Meis Department Store and, after writing an assignment on the spot to prove her talent to the advertising manager, landed a part-time job as a copy girl earning $7.34 per week.

One day, the advertising manager informed Myra that “a new man from New York was coming.” He asked if Myra could make sure all the ads got in the paper and on the air. Once she agreed, Myra realized two things: she could soon be out of a job and this was her big chance.

Myra had a plan. The store never used real artwork in its ads, so she put together a double page spread for junior dresses. The ad pictured a girl in one of the dresses sitting on the rim of a glass of lemonade, waving a straw. The caption said, “Junior Dresses – Cool as Lemonade.” The store sold out of all 700 dresses. The next day, the store owner arrived with the ad, demanding to know, “Who did this?” Myra fessed up and the owner responded, “We don’t need that man from New York.”

As one of the most accomplished women in advertising during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, Myra built her reputation selling product benefits to the customer, searching out the truth, identifying problems and generating creative solutions. Her diverse variety of clients ranged from coal mines to candy bars. At one point early in her career, Myra was earning $10,000 annually, which made her the highest paid woman in Terre Haute.

In the early 1960’s, Myra headed to Chicago, was snagged by the ad firm of Roche, Rickard, Henri, Hurst, Inc. and was chosen to serve as its first female executive vice president. In 1965 she was named the National Advertising Federation’s “Advertising Woman of the Year.”

While in Chicago, Myra met Draper Daniels, the ad executive behind the iconic Marlboro Man campaign and after whom the Mad Men character Don Draper was based. Myra and Draper forged a powerful partnership, with Draper gaining controlling interest in Roche, Rickard, Henri, Hurst, Inc. He changed the company’s name to Draper Daniels, Inc. and the pair landed accounts with Colgate Palmolive, Maytag, Motorola and Consolidated Foods. After the successful business merger, Myra and Draper eloped and their personal merger lasted from 1967 until Draper’s death in 1983.

In addition to her success in the advertising world, Myra has many accomplishments in the education field. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business and communications from Indiana State University and pursued doctoral studies in marketing management at Indiana University. Myra also held a six-year associate professorship in marketing and advertising at Indiana University, taught the MBA program in marketing and directed an internship program in publishing.

Myra is currently the chairman and CEO of the Philharmonic Center Cultural Complex in Naples, Florida, which includes the Philharmonic Center for the Arts, the Naples Museum of Art and the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra. She founded the complex in the mid-1980s after coming out of early retirement. In 1986, Myra became the first Florida woman to be designated a “Woman of Change” by the American Association of University Women.

What we learned from Myra: “Associate with people who know things you don’t know, who have skills you don’t have, who have done things you haven’t done. Surround yourself with people who know more than you do and they’ll make you look good.”

Born to Lead

“In the 1960’s, I didn’t know there was a difference between men and women. I always thought of myself as an ad person, not an ad woman. When I was starting out, the closest that women got to management was as a secretary. I was a horse of a different color, I always wanted to be a leader.”

Redefine Failure

“Always learn from failure. Don’t run from it or deny it. Redefine it – not as a calamity but as a necessity. Success is often a liar. Failure is what keeps us honest.”

Be Indispensable

“At one firm, I was shocked to learn that my predecessor made twice what I was earning, but I didn’t go to the board. I made myself so important that the company couldn’t function without me. It worked. I ended up making more than twice what the other guy did.”

This Featured Lady was profiled by Megan L. Reese, WORDrobe™ Stylist for Her Write Image in West Grove, PA.

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