MANILA, PHILIPPINES — A veritable pall came over the Philippine advertising industry as legendary advertising executive Javier Jose “JJ” Calero passed away on March 15 at the age of 86. A former chairman of J. Walter Thompson, JJ spent his entire career serving that one, single agency, something virtually unheard of in the current era of moving from agency to agency.
JJ was a graduate of De La Salle University who also completed the Advance Management Program of the Harvard Business School.
As Regional Director and Senior Vice President of J. Walter Thompson, JJ was responsible for JWT’s operations in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Sri Lanka as well the Philippines. His goal was to ensure that the offices reporting to him followed the group’s quality and corporate standards. His undisputed management performance as J. Walter Thompson Philippines’ first Filipino General Manager earned him an Agora Award for marketing management in 1987. He led the company to industry leadership, increasing the billings from a mere PHP30 million when he took over in 1976 to PHP267 million by 1991.
Beloved leader at Wunderman (formerly J. Walter) Thompson
J. Walter Thompson has since become Wunderman Thompson, and the agency released the following statement following the passing of its iconic leader:
“It is with deep sadness that we bid our former Chairman, the great JJ farewell. With his passing, the industry has lost not just one of our most esteemed leaders, but also one of our wisest mentors.
JJ achieved much in his lifetime, but he is perhaps best known in the Philippine advertising industry as the former chairman and regional director for J. Walter Thompson in the Philippines. Under his stewardship, JWT became among the top agencies in the country (taking the top spot quite a number of times) driving such brands as Unilever, Ford, and CFC just to name a few.
A lot of the campaigns done by his teams still influence how things are done to this day, and there are countless leaders across the advertising and marketing community who reached their status thanks in no small part to his wisdom and guidance.
The JWT network also held him in high regard, entrusting him with oversight of several other regional offices on top of his own.
JJ has always shown much passion for this industry, so much so that he continued to be active in various leadership roles for several organizations long after his retirement from agency life. A fixture in several festivals, he was most recently part of the leadership team of UA&P’s Asia Pacific Tambuli Awards.
The recipient of several lifetime achievement awards, JJ’s spirit continues on in every life and every career of every adperson he inspired during his journey here on earth. Many of us in this industry wouldn’t be where we are today without him, and there are those of us who continue to be guided by the path he blazed.
We at Wunderman Thompson are humbled and honored to be part of his legacy. Rest well, sir Jayjay. And thank you, for literally everything.”
Sharing knowledge through the APAC Tambuli Awards
Speaking of the Asia Pacific Tambuli Awards, Dr. Jerry Kliatchko, Dean of the Integrated Marketing Communication and Media and Entertainment Management at the University of Asia and the Pacific, worked closely with JJ as one of the awards’ organizers.
“Today we celebrate the incredible life of JayJay Calero,” Dr. Kliatchko posted on Facebook. “JayJay was a true icon and pillar of Philippine advertising. Working at J. Walter Thompson since 1958, he quickly rose up the ranks and became the Chairman and CEO of JWT Philippines, leading them to unprecedented success.”
“Mr. Calero’s more than 30-year career at J. Walter Thompson includes eight years as Chairman, 15 years as President, and seven years as first Filipino Regional Director, International Vice President for Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore. and the Philippines.”
“He so graciously passed on his years of experience and learning to the IMC students of the University of Asia and the Pacific, continuing to teach and mentor them until 2019,” he added. “Together with the late Mr. Tony Mercado, former Chairman and CEO of Basic Advertising, he helped begin the Communication program at UA&P, where he also served as Vice Chairman for the Board of Trustees and Chairman for the APAC Tambuli Awards.”
“It was through JayJay’s passion, dedication that all this was possible. His presence will be greatly missed, and we are deeply grateful for all his years of service and leadership. May his soul rest in peace.”
Honors from the 4As Philippines
The Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies (4As Philippines) also released a statement following the passing of this pillar of Philippine advertising. “4As Philippines mourns the passing of one of the industry’s most revered leaders, Mr. JJ Calero. A former 4As Chairman and Creative Guild Lifetime Achievement awardee, JJ inspired many with his passion and wisdom.”
“During his tenure as its chairman, he steered J. Walter Thompson to new heights, cementing its place among the top agencies in the country. JJ’s legacy lives on in the many lives he has touched and the countless careers he has guided. His influence and dedication to Philippine advertising will never be forgotten.”
Personal stories of mentorship and caring
“I have no big, glitzy stories of Jayjay Calero,” said Adele Victorino-Estrada, Former JWT Creative Director. “The man who shuffled board seats, parlayed local bets into global players, and was on winking/private joke terms with every VIP at a cocktail was a man I only read about. But I have, possibly, the world’s longest montage of this industry giant’s tiny moments from the gaze of a tiny employee.”
“How, with a ninja’s silent tread, he would just happen upon this newly hired AE’s inter-cubicle gigglings and find the perfect one-liner that both punchlined and chastised. How, at internals, his weighty comments were delivered with the same Sean Connery seriousness (Red October, not 007) as his jokes. And how you had the same half-second to decide which one it was and find a comeback,” she continued.
“Everything feeling like a social, whether agency-wide state-of-the-nation assemblies, new client introductions, or sportsfests because Jayjay and Mr. H mingled and bantered with us like Old Hollywood icons and invited us to be the same. Confident, equal, at ease with grace.”
“Then the personal. Jayjay stepping into a mess that could have cost me my job; trusting like a father that I would tell him the truth, believing me when I did. Jayjay welcoming my unprecedented request to move from Accounts to Creative. His winking, jolly face when we showed him my first major TVC. His proud, beaming face when I told him I was pregnant with my first child. A retired Jayjay personally mentoring that firstborn son at UA&P.”
“The montage runs longer than any should, over years, then decades, with details that resist editing. I’m convinced that the hundreds of us who knew and were touched by Jayjay Calero’s singular magic each have their own overtime montages. Running through them all: his humor, his kindness, his unwavering faith that you would exceed your own expectations, and meet his. You are indelible, Mr. Calero. Thank you.”
“This man took his chance on a fresh grad and hired me as a Management Trainee,” shared Tats Cruz, Head of Agency and Managing Director at Publicis JimenezBasic on Facebook. “To this day I don’t know if he did so because I was the daughter of a client.”
“In the years I worked directly under him, all I felt was a deep concern and care of a boss for his young apprentice. He forged opportunities for me, mentored and taught me how to be a good AE. He made sure to have relationships with his employees beyond work. We had birthday breakfasts (which I now practice), summer outings, celebrations for wins and promotions, and unsung hero awards.
“And each time expect a personal note and token gift from the Chairman. Most of which I’ve kept. Too many to post. When I resigned from JWT, he still kept in touch and even offered me a post in Jakarta, where he was also Chairman. I felt valued.”
“Thank you, Jayjay, for showing how it is to be a compassionate leader. I am extremely proud and grateful for having started my career with you and being mentored only by the legends of Philippine advertising … Jayjay Calero, Meckoy Quiogue, Mon, and Abby Jimenez. May you rest in heavenly peace.”
Advocate and supporter of Philippine advertising
We, in adobo magazine, pay tribute to one of the most respected and revered admen, one who started in the mail room of the agency to eventually rise to its chairmanship. JJ was an advocate and supporter of what adobo magazine stood for as a publication for the industry, as the word on creativity.
Angel Guerrero, Founder, President, and Editor-in-Chief of adobo magazine, said, “JJ was always generous with his time and through the years has given encouragement and support to what I did as a publisher for the creative industry. He wanted me to chronicle the industry that others have tried in the past and not succeeded in. His commitment to and legacy in the ad industry will forever be etched in our pages.”
During the eulogy in his final mass on March 18, at the Christ The King Parish Church in Greenmeadows, his family and close friends shared how playful and mischievous JJ was, even attributing the stuck lock on the communion host to his influence. Stories were also told, like when he hid his false teeth in a napkin and invited his granddaughter to open it.