Universal McCann Changes Media Tactics

NEW YORK In the latest sign that Matt Seiler, global CEO of Universal McCann, is redefining the relationship the agency forges with media owners, he has hired Jacki Kelley — whose career spans two decades on the sales and marketing side of the media business — as the shop’s North America president.

Seiler said he had talked with several candidates at media shops and other agencies about the newly created post, but earlier this year had an “aha” moment when “I realized I’d been looking in the wrong places” for an executive he hoped would transform UM’s dealings with sellers. He then added media sellers to his list of candidates.

Throughout the industry, said Seiler, buyer-seller relationships lack depth and focus too much on the final transaction. Instead, he believes the ties have to be forged “early in the planning process to create strategic connections to what the client’s business objectives are and using the total resources of the media owners to achieve that.”

The hire is the latest move Seiler has taken to reshape the Interpublic Group agency, which he joined eight months ago. And there’s more to come: in the following weeks, UM will appoint a handful of North American executives who will serve as liaisons to specific media companies with a mandate to forge deeper, more meaningful ties.

Kelley spent 18 years in various functions at Gannett’s USA Today, including circulation and advertising posts at both domestic and international operations before joining Yahoo in 2006 as svp, advertising, just as digital devices and services were gaining critical mass with consumers. In 2007, she joined Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia as evp, media sales, where she led the creation of an integrated media team.

Kelley said she jumped to the buy side because she’s interested in the opportunity to transform UM’s relationship with sellers. She added that Seiler’s take “is in line with the approach I’ve advocated on the media side, which is to focus on the audience and change the conversation from one about planning and buying to one of strategy, insight and the creation of shared assets.” While that sounds fairly straightforward, she said, “it’s more uncommon than any of us would like.”

And agencies need to focus on audience, she said, or they might find themselves on the outside looking in. “Media companies have bypassed agencies in order to get to clients and execute on a more strategic level,” Kelley said. “It’s how media owners want to engage.”

Seiler said that once the agency’s new structure for interacting with media companies is finalized in North America, he hopes to export it to other parts of the world. While sellers across the globe have different setups, with some adjustments, he said, “I think it is template-able.”

Kelley is expected to start at UM in late April or early May.