Advertising and Tech Put Grad Joel Ponce on a Paramount Path

Posted on January 18, 2023 by MCOB

Joel Ponce Portrait

Both in geography and career path, Joel Ponce has traveled along roads he never expected.

After moving to Northwest Arkansas and graduating from the University of South Alabama, he rode a rapid series of corporate mergers and acquisitions to arrive as a director of sales at the global media company Paramount, where he works with some of the world’s most-recognizable brands and talent. Change is the only constant, and he expects even wilder twists and turns in the years to come.

Born in Miami, he moved with his parents to their native Honduras at an early age. Eventually, Joel and his mom came to Mobile – a place he would learn to call home.

In high school, classwork wasn’t his top priority. He was far more interested in playing sports. Going into South’s Mitchell College of Business, he said, “I remember thinking that if I actually want to do something with my life, I can’t do what I’ve been doing the last few years.”

Ponce drew inspiration from his parents, particularly his mother’s hard work and sacrifice. As a single mom, “she gave up her life to give me a chance at a better future,” he said. “I wasn’t going to waste that opportunity or take it for granted.”

So he focused. He soaked up knowledge wherever he could. “The most fun I would have was after classes, going to talk to all the professors about what they were researching and looking into,” he said.

At South, he founded Jaguar Arts, which sold licensed South Alabama memorabilia. He also connected with Mobile’s Red Square Agency during a consulting project for a creativity and innovation course within the Melton Center for Entrepreneurship. That project and his interaction with Rich Sullivan, CEO of Red Square, changed the trajectory of his career. Ponce was fascinated by the variety of skill sets all under one roof, the quality of the work, the process and the culture. He had never seen anything like it.

“Advertising is the ability to understand human behavior and use that to drive action,” Ponce said. "It's both art and science; that combination was far more interesting to me than either one individually.”

Ponce received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a double major in marketing and management. He turned down a job offer from a New York ad agency and instead took an internship in Northwest Arkansas with Saatchi & Saatchi X. “It seemed crazy at the time but proved to be the right decision,” he said.

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