As the chief marketing officer for MasterCard Worldwide, Flanagan was responsible for selecting the "Priceless" campaign from 35 options that were offered to the corporation when it was trying to revive itself in the 1990s. Flanagan saw the long-term potential for "Priceless." He pushed hard for it, even though another ad – sharper, cooler, wittier – had gained a strong footing. MasterCard listened to Flanagan, the brand was revived, and Flanagan was hailed a hero.
His secret: "I was just willing to say, 'I think this is the best thing to do'," he said. "I'd rather do the right thing than the safe thing."
Now one of the top marketing professionals in corporate America, Flanagan initially got a job right out of high school, as was tradition in his family. He worked in plumbing, drove a truck, and then joined a company specializing in mechanical contracting in West Haven, Connecticut. He would attend meetings where the contractor's salesmen would pull up in their Corvettes, and he finally decided that he wanted the same kind of car, and the life that went with it.
"Go to college," the salesmen said to him. He enrolled at the University of New Haven, where he discovered marketing. After graduation, he headed to Madison Avenue. He built his reputation at L'Oreal and Procter & Gamble, so much so that when MasterCard was searching for an executive to revive its struggling brand, Flanagan was chosen.
An excellent education, hard work and a willingness to take risks: for Flanagan, the outcome was indeed priceless.
Posted Winter 2009