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Media All-Star: Katie Thompson

vp, associate director digital media, mediahub, Mullen, partnered with JetBlue on new media tech

Jeremy Goldberg

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When Mullen won the JetBlue account in June 2010, it went with a decidedly aggressive approach. But it didn't just go after competitors. Thanks to Mullen's Katie Thompson, who leads the account's digital side, it also embraced new technologies.

JetBlue, for instance, became one of the first brands to test ads on Twitter through its EarlyBird Tweets, Promoted Accounts, and Promoted Tweets. It was a beta tester on AT&T's location-based ShopAlerts service. And it was one of the first brands on Microsoft's Xbox Kinect system.

Thompson also worked with mobile ad network Millennial Media to build the infrastructure behind JetBlue's "Thinking Outside the Bag" local campaign, which won Adweek's 2011 Media Plan of the Year award. JetBlue, in a competitive struggle in Los Angeles with Virgin America--which charges for all checked luggage--needed to spread the word to Los Angelenos that first bags fly free. So, it auctioned off celebrity luggage for charity. It was a tech-heavy effort, incorporating QR codes (directing Santa Monica, Calif., mall shoppers to the auction site) and real-time bidding.

Thompson is "always a step ahead and is constantly thinking about our demanding, real-time business," says Fiona Morrisson, JetBlue's director of brand and advertising.

The work is a dramatic change from Thompson's early days at Mullen. She joined as a recent college graduate in 2005 as part of a four-person digital team that focused mostly on banner ads. That crew has grown to more than 20 and expanded to include social networks, smartphones, and more. Thompson is now Mullen's newest vp.

Even before JetBlue hired Mullen, says Thompson, it had embraced Facebook and Twitter to find new ways to reach consumers. (During its search, the airline's svp of marketing, Marty St. George, said the first test would involve "how many of the agencies will find me on Twitter.") Still, Thompson admits that some of their early campaigns deservedly met with some skepticism. "Any really smart client is going to have a lot of tough discussions about, 'What will this do for our brand?'" she says. "What I try to look for is: What value does it provide to the consumer? So many of the new opportunities are just 'me too.'"