Innovative. Insightful. Caring. Jane Townsend embodies the attributes of a successful executive. Upon founding Gross Townsend Frank Hoffman with Alan Gross, and creative partners Ronnie Hoffman and Dave Frank, her vision and passion defined a new kind of health care advertising and a new kind of agency. Jane’s contributions to our industry and to developing leaders of the next generation are remarkable.
Jane was born in a small town in Oklahoma. At age 16, she was involved in a car accident that almost killed her. She fought her way back to complete health, an early sign of her overarching attitude that anything could be accomplished if you worked hard enough and believed in yourself and your ideas. Jane’s inquisitive mind led her to pursue a degree and, ultimately, a career in journalism. She began as a newspaper reporter, and was named a Top 10 Reporter in the USA in 1971 by the National Press Women’s Association. This success paved the way for her first job in our industry as a copywriter at ER Squibb and Sons.
She was promoted to advertising manager at Squibb and then made the leap to the “agency side,” taking her first account executive position at Kallir Phillips Ross in the mid ’70s. Jane became fascinated with the role of patients in making their own healthcare decisions, and went to work for three years as an account supervisor at Shaller Rubin, an agency involved with advertising to the healthcare consumer. Then, in 1979, she and husband Alan Gross decided to break out on their own to create an agency that would be the kind of place that both had always dreamed of working. The culture she helped shape at GTFH was nothing short of magical, with Jane and Alan attracting a young generation of talent that they personally mentored.
Jane understood the role of the patient in making health care choices long before the internet and technology fueled the trend. She also recognized the importance of “insight based” marketing to the doctor, treating the professional as a “consumer” and evolving the creative product to a more provocative/evocative level. Jane was among the earliest industry veterans who had the foresight to understand the value in developing and assembling multiple communications’ disciplines under one brand/one roof. In addition to the advertising division, Jane spearheaded the launch of GTFH PR, worked with Alan Gross on the initiation of Phase V Med Ed, and ultimately began a digital offering in the early 90’s, right before their retirement.
As with many other original agency principals, Jane recorded several industry firsts that are now taken for granted by those of us who came after. She was among the earliest (maybe the first?) female partner of a major health care agency. She never made it seem as if being a woman impacted, or impeded, her success in a male-dominated industry, and none of the young women she mentored did either. As a result, she gave rise to a whole new generation of female executives/agency principals. She was named the very first HBA Woman of the Year in 1991. Jane was a founder of the Coalition for Healthcare Marketing, because she believed early on that our industry needed help defining its good work for consumers/patients, and a more formal lobbying approach to government. She pioneered one of the very first “CRM programs, “a patient magazine for Premarin called Seasons. She collaborated closely with Alan Gross on the launch of the first statin, Merck’s Mevacor, successfully conditioning the market to the clinical consequences of high cholesterol and the necessity for testing.
Jane has always been philanthropically oriented, and, since retiring to Bonaire in the Dutch Caribbean in 1993, she and Alan have used their marketing and communications skills on charitable activity and volunteer work for various social and educational projects, including ecological preservation work, an Island Disaster Plan development and training, Tene Boneiru Limpi (Keep Bonaire Clean), and founding an after-school program for teens which has become the largest of its kind in the Dutch Caribbean. In recognition of these efforts, in 2005, Alan and Jane were made Knights of the Order of Nassau-Orange by the Queen of the Netherlands for service to the Bonaire community.
All of her life, Jane has been a trailblazer. Her talent and drive have been an inspiration to those who worked with her and her mentoring has earned her a devoted cadre of admirers who have taken their place as industry leaders.