July 2020

Earlier this week I heard someone say, “never underestimate your parents; they know more than you think.”

The statement caused me to reflect back on a day that arguably changed my life. Christmas 1975, in my parents living room in Orlando, Florida. I was telling my mom and dad that I had made the decision to not be a schoolteacher (like them), but instead, was going to get a business degree and go into advertising. 


Then my dad says, “you know son, I can help you get a job as a schoolteacher, but there’s not much I can do to help you get a job in the advertising industry.” I assured my dad that I understood, and that I had no expectations that he would help me out with my future career focus.

Then, my dad turns to my mom and says, “Now that I think about it, don’t we know someone who is in the advertising business?” I am thinking to myself, oh my heavens, dad knows some matchbook salesman or a local promotions dude that he wants to introduce me to. So I interject and tell my parents that they really did not have to worry about me, and that as I make my way through my major, I would of course figure out a path for employment. But dad persisted. “No, I know I know someone in the advertising business.”

And then…and then…

My dad says to my mom, “Didn’t little Alex Kroll get into the advertising business?” My mouth fell open in shock. I respond to my Dad with “who?”, just to make sure I was actually hearing what I thought I heard. He says, “Alex Kroll, why?” Dad, Alex Kroll is CEO of the largest advertising agency in the world – Young & Rubicam. How do you know him? He says, “Alex played high school football for me in Leechburg, Pennsylvania, was valedictorian, a 6-foot-3 228-pound center who played at Yale for one season before leaving to enlist in the Army, where he served in the military police for two years, and then returned to school - this time at Rutgers. He went on to play for the New York Titans, which later became the NY Jets. 

You just have to chuckle; my dad, who says he can’t help me if I go into the advertising industry. 

I asked if he stayed in touch with Alex, and he said “no, but I am sure I can get in touch with him. My guess is his parents are still living in Redding Connecticut.” And so…

My dad calls information
Gets a phone number for Alex Kroll’s parents
Gets Alex’s parents on the line, chats a bit, and get Alex’s phone number
Calls Alex, and chats for 20 minutes. 
Puts me on the phone – I am terrified 
Summer of 1976 I interned at Young & Rubicam in NYC

Later, upon graduation from the University of Illinois in 1978, I had two major job offers – Young & Rubicam (Alex Kroll) and Compton Advertising (Bart Cummings), who paid for me to get my master’s degree at the U of I – James Webb Young Scholarship. It was a hard choice, but in the end, I chose Compton Advertising as I wanted to work on Procter & Gamble business. 40+ years have passed, and the journey has been amazing – all because of one warm December night in Florida, when my parents, who I clearly underestimated, changed my world. 

How about you. Have a similar story?  We’d love to hear it.

Joe Bouch,
CEO, 78Madison

78Madison is a full-service marketing communications firm – advertising agency – located in Orlando Florida (Altamonte Springs). The name 78Madison?  Joe Bouch began his career in 1978 on Madison Avenue in New York City, at Compton Advertising.