The Winding Road to Success, Giaquinta Style
When it comes to strategic marketing and communications, operational analysis and business development, Jerry Giaquinta ’73 (political science) is the man to see. Recently named managing director of the highly respected Abernathy MacGregor Group’s new San Francisco office, he has made a name for himself in the entertainment, technology, automobile and pharmaceutical industries. “I’ve been very fortunate to have been associated with some of the best-known companies around the globe, with really bright people, and dealt with many different kinds of situations,” Giaquinta says. “But many of the principals of success are essentially the same. The important thing is to keep moving forward, to take some calculated risks, to not be afraid of trying the unknown, to look for learning experiences. You won’t advance by looking in the rearview mirror.”
Giaquinta’s career began when he was finishing his MPA at the University of Southern California and Eli Lilly & Co., the pharmaceutical giant, came on a recruiting mission. Hired in sales, he eventually became a spokesperson for product and corporate issues. “In between, Lilly offered to send me back to USC for a PhD in Public Policy and Management, which I gladly accepted,” Giaquinta recalls. “Eventually, I returned to the corporate headquarters in Indianapolis but I really enjoyed California, so when Toyota offered an opportunity in 1980, I was thrilled.”
For ten years, Giaquinta held progressively responsible management positions in national public relations, government relations, strategic planning and car advertising. The government relations aspect involved a large amount of law, so to equip him with the tools to get the job done, Toyota sent Giaquinta to Loyola Law School, where he earned a JD. Subsequently, he was a key member of the team that launched Lexus into the U.S.
Because of Lexus’ tremendous success, Mercedes-Benz of North America recruited Giaquinta to help forge their turnaround strategy. He became an officer of the company and head of North American communications. “The position took me to New York City, and then as vice president of West Coast operations in Hollywood, responsible for sales, marketing, distribution, service, human resources and business management functions for the region and its dealerships.”
Giaquinta points out that career path dynamics have changed considerably over the years. Having diversified work experiences and changing companies is considered healthy in today’s workplace. Once upon a time the employer/employee relationship was based on lifetime employment. People would spend their entire careers with one organization. But that started to change in the 1970s. Five, six, seven switches, with twists as you go, are quite typical and employers value the knowledge gained outside their own company or industry. “That’s why it’s quite beneficial to start out with a more general liberal arts degree,” Giaquinta says. “The social and behavioral sciences offer that: critical thinking and problem solving skills by their very nature allow for flexibility.”
In his next role Giaquinta transitioned form the corporate world to the agency side and became president and CEO Chiat/Day Communications, the marketing and communications subsidiary of the influential California advertising agency, Chiat/Day. Strengthening ties with clients such as Nissan and McDonalds, he also integrated the agency’s communications activities with Chiat/Day Advertising. “Operating on the agency side afforded me the opportunity to work with a variety of clients from very different industries including technology, consumer products, entertainment and financial services. It really forces one to stay ahead of the curve and take a ‘portfolio management’ approach on how to best reach and serve the customer base.”
And what respectable Californian wouldn’t want to have a hand in the movie industry? Giaquinta’s next opportunity came with Sony Pictures Entertainment. As executive vice president and corporate officer, reporting to the president, he worked in all aspects of SPE’s corporate marketing and communications efforts and was the liaison and integrator with Sony Electronics, Sony Music, Playstation, and Sony Corporation in Tokyo. From motion pictures to television to digital entertainment, he coordinated company-wide communications and strategies. Films like The Patriot, Die Another Day, Charlie’s Angels and the Crocodile Hunter benefited from his expertise.
“Joining SPE,” says Giaquinta, “really touched my entrepreneurial spirit. You stand in front of a door, not knowing what’s going to be behind it. Entertainment is an extremely fast paced business where risk and reward go hand-in-hand.”
And that’s exactly why Giaquinta decided to start his own marketing and communications consulting company, The Giaquinta Group, in 2000. “It’s rather daunting, really, to leave the security of the mothership, but truly it was a huge defining moment.” The Giaquinta Group advised clients like Sony, DaimlerChrysler, Hewlett Packard, Novartis, World Expo Japan, Toyota, MGM, Visa, Netflix and more.
With this impressive portfolio, it comes as no surprise that the Abernathy MacGregor Group came calling when it wanted to expand its West Coast operation. Bringing his company with him, Giaquinta now heads the San Francisco based office, embarking on yet another adventure.
In addition, he tries to stay active in the community where he is on the Board of Directors of the American Cinematheque in Hollywood, the Arthur Page Society, and the Board of Advisors for the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business Center for Marketing and Technology.
Next adventure? Who knows, though Giaquinta says it might involve somehow giving back, perhaps by working in an academic environment—perhaps finding the winding road back to a campus where it all began.
December 19, 2006