The 2014 Media All-Stars

Relying on their skills and talents, the 12 media agency executives (actually, 11 executives and one rising star) who make up this year's group of Media All-Stars have bent technology to their will and devised unique strategies to deliver the goods for their clients. Leading the charge is our Executive of the Year, OMD USA's CEO Monica Karo, whose return to OMD last year resulted almost immediately in landing $800 million of Disney's business. And Rising Star Brandon Miller's work at Carmichael Lynch for client Subaru helped the client boost its digital spend from less than $1 million in 2006 to more than $60 million last year. Here are their stories. 


Monica Karo

All leopard-spotted heels and leather vest, Monica Karo knows how to make a first impression. Within 60 days of rejoining OMD from PHD last September, Karo stunned the industry by landing $800 million worth of Disney’s media business without a review. The account moved from rival (and soon to be Omnicom’s sibling) Publicis Groupe on the basis that Karo runs it.

“Monica is the ultimate hardworking and inspired professional,” says Anthy Price, svp, media and integrations at Walt Disney Studios. “We are grateful for her insight, ability to adapt to a constantly evolving media landscape and convert that evolution into new and exciting opportunities.”

It’s not just about winning new clients. When Karo returned to her former employer, top marketers like Nissan and Visa let OMD global chief Mainardo de Nardis know how much they applauded the move.

Such rapport comes as little surprise when considering that Karo is an Omnicom veteran who has worked with OMD client Apple for nearly three decades, throughout her entire career.

Before Karo was named to her current post, she was U.S. chief of Omnicom Media Group’s PHD media network, a promotion after serving as president of integrated accounts. Karo first joined the Omnicom fold in 1994 at TBWAChiatDay where she rose through the ranks and was eventually named global chief media officer.

Page Thompson, OMG’s North American CEO, has guided Karo’s career through many of those roles, working with her since OMD was formed in 2002 and she was named managing director in Los Angeles.

“There’s no better client person—she’s the consummate professional,” Thompson says. “She knows how to bring clients in to the agency and manage transition and change. There’s no other person I would trust to run OMD.”

In her current job, Karo has made digital a priority, initiating the largest restructuring in the agency’s history and incorporating digital into strategic planning to ensure it gets requisite consideration at the beginning of the media process and remains at its core.

Another major consideration is Annalect, OMG’s digital data and analytics company. Karo would like to find a way for OMD to better leverage Annalect and to convey OMD’s point of view about data.

Karo describes OMD’s U.S. structure and operations as a blue-chip culture. She likens it to Chanel—whereas the smaller PHD is more like Stella McCartney. “It’s so critical to get the right people at the right time and making sure it’s right for the culture,” she says. As part of OMD’s revamp, Karo has recruited talent like Chris Pyne, MediaCom’s chief product officer, for the dual role of president of OMD East and chief strategy officer of OMD USA.

Joining OMD in its nascent days makes Karo feel like a founder, with a proprietary interest in retaining the same connection with employees she had before it became a $2.1 billion global powerhouse with teams dedicated to major clients such as Apple, Nissan and PepsiCo.

With that in mind, at SXSW this year, the boss—six-packs in hand—popped into a house in Austin where OMD Ignition Factory staffers chowed down on Tex-Mex, to thank them for their work at the festival.

Creating that sense of community and mission is certainly top of mind for Karo.

“This is a year of transformation at OMD—we have to practice what we preach,” she says. “How do we put ourselves out there with clients, external groups and prospective clients? As one moves around the globe, they all need to feel what OMD is.” —Noreen O’Leary



Brandon Miller

Brandon Miller feels like he’s grown up at the agency that gave him his start.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota in 2006, the Hector, Minn., native joined Carmichael Lynch as an assistant planner but quickly ascended to senior engagement strategist, becoming an integral part of the agency’s Subaru team.

Our Media All-Stars Rising Star, Miller’s data-intensive approach to Subaru’s and other clients' media strategies convinced them to boost their digital spend at Carmichael Lynch from less than $1 million in 2006 to north of $60 million last year.

The pressure of such a major account doesn’t intimidate the 29-year-old, even though he’s tasked with search, video, display and programmatic buying for the client.

Miller attributes his success on Subaru to the fact that they have grown up together in the digital space.

“Brandon does great work for our clients because of his sense of curiosity,” says Joe Germscheid, director of consumer engagement at Carmichael Lynch. “He is always striving to find out how and why something works the way it does. It’s not out of the ordinary to see him with a college textbook or some white papers.”

Miller’s shining moment came when he pioneered a program with artificial intelligence firm Rocket Fuel to reach consumers who were not considering Subaru.

It worked.

The campaign yielded 73,000 new dealer interactions in 2013. Miller even joined Rocket Fuel and Subaru onstage at the J.D. Power Automotive Marketing Summit last October to present the results—impressive for any media agency type, especially one who isn’t yet 30.

“All you’re doing is trying to get media in front of people who are more apt to do it anyway instead of those who are already tipped to take the action,” Miller says of the work he did for Subaru. “We devised a way to target those people. It was a really cool thing that happened there, and we hit one of our media goals.”

The secret to Miller’s run at Carmichael Lynch?

“One of the reasons that I’ve had a bit of success is that I really do love my job, media and digital media,” he says. “The whole discipline is a cool place to be, and with programmatic churning out efficiencies, there’s more time for creativity.” —Kristina Monllos


Steven Feuling

Like Winston Wolfe in Pulp Fiction, Carat’s Steven Feuling solves problems. And though he works at a media agency, Feuling is more interested in tackling pure business problems than communications issues.

A former marketing leader at Kmart and Clorox, the Carat executive has spent more years on the client side (18) than at agencies (eight). After studying industrial engineering in college, his first job after business school was in a strategy group at Arthur Andersen. All that client-side experience makes for a naturally empathetic global client president, a role Feuling assumed last December after leading the onboarding of the massive General Motors global account.

Nigel Morris, who handpicked Feuling for both roles, describes him as whip smart, collaborative, ambitious and funny in a self-deprecating way. Marketing leaders like working with him as much as his agency fellows. “He’s a very warm sort of character and people respond to that,” says Morris, Dentsu Aegis’ CEO for the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “He does care about other people, and honestly, that’s half the battle” of being a leader.

What’s more, Feuling is refreshingly straightforward and a great listener, which he says is key to understanding the business problems he strives to solve. Marketing leaders at clients including GM and Disney theme parks appreciate Feuling’s candor and thoughtfulness. “He is someone you can count on to make things happen and get the best level of service and deliverables,” says Emmanuel Marques, vp of global media at Disney Destinations.

And while Feuling sometimes misses the client world, he loves the variety of an agency job—just not the near-constant travel. In his current role, he oversees more than a half-dozen U.S-based global accounts, including Disney, P&G and Pfizer. “I get to work across the entertainment industry, the travel industry, the packaged-goods industry all in one day,” he says. “It’s hard to find that on the client side.” —Andrew McMains


Shelby Saville

While digital ad viewability has become buzzy, Shelby Saville, evp, managing director at Spark, was way out in front of the trend for one of her company’s biggest clients, ConAgra.

Saville shepherded winning interactive campaigns for ConAgra brands including Chef Boyardee, Orville Redenbacher’s, Slim Jim and Hebrew National—which is why the packaged-foods giant recently entrusted Spark with all of its media business from just a digital base.

“Shelby is one of those rare individuals who can both think strategically and come up with the most innovative ideas while still understanding the nuances of her clients’ business,” says Heather Dumford, media director, global marketing at ConAgra.

“Shelby’s work on that account—her leadership, digital expertise and the relationships she has built with the client—played a major role in ConAgra’s decision,” adds Chris Boothe, Spark CEO.

Saville persuaded Hanes to connect with female consumers via the “Undercover Color” campaign, whose highlights included a social-streaming billboard in Times Square that promoted the hashtag #undercovercolor.

The initiative delivered a 79 percent increase in Twitter mentions as well as a 13.6 point lift among target respondents who stated that “Hanes panties are up-to-date” versus women in that same group who weren’t exposed to the campaign, according to Saville.

With an eye on all Spark clients, including E*Trade, Ace Hardware and Kao Brands, Saville continues to get ahead of the big data curve. “Data is a key that unlocks a deeper understanding of consumer behavior and allows us to craft new ways to forge a deeper connection between consumers and our clients’ brands,” she says.

Despite marketers lamenting channel fragmentation, Saville embraces it. “It’s why I love digital,” she says. “It can be the glue that brings it all together.” —Christopher Heine


Jared Belsky

Marketing can sometimes be as simple as pitching a favorite orange-flavored soda during spring break with swimsuits and a catchy tagline.

In the mid-2000s, Jared Belsky managed the Fanta account at the Coca-Cola Co., his first major brand experience and one that sometimes transported him to places like Panama City Beach, Fla., replete with bikini-clad models and booming pop music.

But his work life—and marketing—are no day at the beach, of course. As president of 360i, Belsky represents the new wave of marketing executives, embracing a data-centric strategy of highly personalized advertising at scale and high speeds.

360i is best known for that famous Oreo tweet, and with the agency’s help, Oscar Mayer has likewise become a boundary-pushing brand, captivating consumers with a meat-scented iPhone app.

The 37-year-old Belsky, promoted to president this year, is based in Atlanta where he heads up search, media and analytics.

What he loves about his agency, he says, is its team of specialists, data scientists, artificial intelligence analysts and others who help to make sense of what has become a highly complex business. “This is the most intelligent time to be in media ever,” Belsky says. “It’s about doing whatever you can to gain a slight edge on behalf of clients.”

He points to technology paving the way for a level of consumer interaction that simply wasn’t possible before—pushing hotel offers to a traveler’s smartphone the moment his flight is canceled, for example.

Belsky and his team developed custom programs for client, resulting in a 40 percent jump in a key performance metric. “Over the past year, Jared and his team have led our digital strategy with constant and purposeful innovation, realizing that ‘new’ or ‘different’ is only good when it’s also better than the previous solution,” says Jessica Stafford, marketing director. —Garett Sloane


Catherine Davis

Bryan Cranston, Edward Burns and the founders of Warby Parker walk into a bar ...

Late last year, those luminaries starred in The Glenlivet’s “Single Stories” campaign, vignettes that ran across various digital channels as well as cable channel Sundance. The creative goal: capturing the mood of heartfelt discussions shared over a few drinks, perhaps at a local bar or a get-together with friends.

“Telling stories in intimate settings is the way people come into the brand,” says Catherine Davis, president, Americas, at Dentsu Aegis’ Vizeum.

That sentiment informs “Single Stories,” and reflects the agency’s approach under Davis. Vizeum stays “in the moment,” telling sincere stories stemming from brand insights, often with very specific placements designed to maximize target engagement.

“If there is no mention of media, distribution and amplification, it’s very possible that no one except us and the brand will see our work,” Davis says. Keeping creative and media “operating in sync is essential to get business results.”

Tim Murphy, vp, digital and media at Pernod Ricard, which produces The Glenlivet, says he’s pleased with the results of “Single Stories.” Budgeted at around $1 million, it tallied 60 million online impressions and another 10.2 million on Sundance. Social media mentions featuring Cranston scored a 13 percent share rate.

Since Davis arrived at Vizeum in 2011, her philosophy—hinging on collaboration across departments and media partners (Sundance consulted on “Single Stories”)—has helped the shop flourish. Under her, Vizeum has grown fourfold to 130 employees, and in 2013 revenue rose 150 percent. New clients include Dow Jones, Maserati and Sonos.

“She thinks about things from all different perspectives,” says Angela Courtin, president of Dentsu Aegis Network U.S. “She has an ability to understand all facets of this business from the agency, client and media perspective.” —David Gianatasio


Adam Shlachter

On the road, Adam Shlachter keeps up with his two young kids via FaceTime on his iPhone, checks in for his flights with the Delta Air Lines app and hitches a ride via Uber. When he touches down, his Starbucks—ordered and paid for by its new mobile service—is waiting for him. “I’m kind of a poster child for the modern day mobile consumer,” notes Shlachter, who oversees DigitasLBi’s media partnerships.

His mobile life informs Shlachter’s work for clients including American Express, Motorola and NYSE Euronext. He likes to use a range of tactics—digital video, mobile, storytelling, social sharing and branded content—that can work hand-in-hand with traditional media. That takes more hands: DigitasLBi’s staff has swelled 40 percent over the last year.

Some marketers make the mistake of pigeonholing their targets, he points out. “The consumer isn’t ‘a TV viewer,’ ‘a radio listener’ or ‘an out-of-home person.’ It’s all the same person, with lots of different media habits and consumption patterns.”

Shlachter’s approach has helped land clients like NYSE and Motorola. After 18 months on the job, he’s become something of a Digital Content NewFronts maven, brokering big deals with AOL and Google over the last year.

For AmEx, Shlachter and his team pushed its fourth annual Small Business Saturday to new heights. Twitter conversations about the shop-local initiative jumped 65 percent in 2013 over ’12, consumer awareness edged up to 71 percent and shoppers spent a record-busting $5.7 billion at mom-and-pop shops.

“It was broader and bigger than we’d ever done,” says Rich Lehrfeld, vp, global media, sponsorship and experiential marketing at American Express. “It shows that rare ability that Adam has to think at a high level and then execute some great ideas.” —T.L. Stanley


JiYoung Kim

When you’re a colossal brand looking to innovate on a leading mobile ad platform, you want JiYoung Kim on your team.

Two years ago, Intel decided it wanted to advertise on Apple’s iAd platform. It was fairly new technology at the time, and most of the interactivity involved shaking your phone. The company—wanting more, and envisioning an immersive, choose-your-own-adventure video game experience—turned to Kim. “She said what she always says: ‘How hard can it be? Giddy-up!’” recalls Sia Ea, senior creative director at Ansible.

After Apple said what Intel wanted couldn’t be done, Kim figured out which platform its iAd technology was based on, then storyboarded a campaign and showed everyone how it was possible. “Apple much preferred to stay within the confines of the template,” Kim says. “But if you ever asked a creative head to use a template, you would be thrown out of the room. In definition, you are asking me to do something that’s been done before? What’s the point of the job?”

The Escape” iAd went on to beat key categories on the Apple platform by more than 200 percent and went on to win a silver Lion at Cannes in the mobile category.

“After all that hard work, blood, sweat, tears and hating life, you accomplish a project,” Ea says. “You work on something that you never would have tried without her encouragement. You end up doing things you would never have done before.”

Kim has brought the same dedication and passion to all her projects, including successful global campaigns for clients Johnson & Johnson and Kia.

As Intel Corp. U.S. media director David Veneski says of Kim, “In a world where I deal with a lot of agency partners and media partners, she’s probably one of the most genuine, thoughtful and reliable people that I’ve met.” —Michelle Castillo


Kasha Cacy

Kasha Cacy never planned to go into advertising, yet alone drill deeper into the complexities of media. But after landing her first job as an Accenture programmer, she got involved with marketers who were looking for technological change. That path led her to the ad world, and some of the biggest agencies.

In her new global product role at UM (a new title), Cacy’s experience in strategy, analytics and global client management will come in handy as she revamps the agency’s planning and buying tools. But Daryl Lee, UM’s global CEO, says her consulting background is just as critical. “She brings the perfect combination of data and intuition to client problems and has moved media plans from reach and frequency to business outcomes,” he says.

Cacy’s promotion caps seven years at UM, where she was hired to build the U.S. communications planning group. After UM’s 2007 launch of Johnson & Johnson agency J3, she was tapped to lead its business analytics team of researchers, digital execs and econometric modelers. Returning to UM, Cacy quickly proved her new-business chops, leading the successful global pitch for Hershey last year following a U.S. Postal Service win in late 2012.

Her accomplishments aren’t the result of careful career planning. “I’ve always been open to where the road takes me and following things that interested me,” she says. The journey changed after Wunderman recruited her from Accenture, placing her in a strategist role and working with IBM before following the account to Ogilvy. Later, she would move to UM sibling McCann Erickson.

“One of the reasons I haven’t gone back to a creative agency is because there’s so much opportunity to do really creative and interesting things in media,” says Cacy. “I love where it is going and all the things you can do.” —N.O.


Katy Ferguson

Katy Ferguson knew she wanted to work in advertising all the way back in her college DJ days at Louisiana State University. After training on packaged goods (“I learned a lot about programming rigor and strategy,” she says), about a decade ago she made the jump to Lifetime and never looked back. Since then, she’s bought for clients including Showtime, HBO and CBS, but her current slate is truly record breaking.

Ferguson oversees media buying for A+E Networks, the cable network group that includes History, A&E, Lifetime, H2 and Bio. Two years ago, History premiered a miniseries, Hatfields & McCoys, about the legendary Kentucky families whose 28-year blood feud ended 12 lives. Its first installment made ratings history as the most-watched cable telecast ever, with a phenomenal 13.9 million viewers.

Ferguson is cagey about how exactly her team did it. “That was our first foray into scripted television and we really had to think differently about the way we were marketing the network and that show, and it was a really great case for us to push boundaries,” she says. “I won’t get into the details because it’s a little bit of a trade secret.”

Whatever the secret is, it’s a good thing for Horizon that Ferguson is privy to it. Her group manages more than $250 million in business and has shown double-digit growth over the last three years.

Ferguson thinks tomorrow’s video landscape will bring still more customization and an even more competitive arena. If the little guy produces a show that’s flat-out better than that of one of the big boys, she says, her money’s on the little guy. And the little guy might be dabbling in distribution, too. She says, “You used to either be a distributor or develop content, and now that’s changing and it’s going to make the future really interesting.” —Sam Thielman


Pele Cortizo-Burgess

It’s a 24/7/365 media world, and Pele Cortizo-Burgess is key to helping MEC clients like Citi understand how to reach consumers anywhere, anytime—even when they aren’t actively considering a purchase.

The importance of influencing targets in the passive stage is a core element of MEC’s new approach, dubbed “MEC Momentum.” Cortizo-Burgess, who previously ran strategy for clients like Canon and DirecTV at Grey, is steward of the approach: “I’m entrusted with making it essential to the way we do business.”

Cortizo-Burgess has helped apply the method, which leverages data from more than 40 proprietary studies covering 23 business categories and 13 countries, to win business like Beiersdorf in Europe and Sony in Asia-Pacific. He also played a key role in MEC prying General Electric’s global account (representing some $100 million in annual spending) away from OMD and Starcom last year. His communications expertise and attention to client needs have made him an advisor to brand execs like Elyssa Gray, Citi’s head of creative and media for North America.

“We’re dealing with a strategic project right now, translating our brand positioning for the organization into a way that is more tangible and relevant for specific consumer segments, and also internally,” says Gray. “He has been instrumental in providing his point of view and insight. … I brought him into that project [because] I wanted his brain on it.”

Cortizo-Burgess—who recently added oversight of MEC’s branded content team, which includes clients AT&T and Ikea—is one of a growing number of media agency pioneers using companies’ wealth of data and insights about consumers to secure a larger role in brand strategy. ” Says Cortizo-Burgess: “Doors that used to lock out media when thinking about where the brand direction is going, those doors are now open, because you’ve got account planners that are applying the intel that’s housed within a media company to other areas within the creative process.” —Gabriel Beltrone


Kamran Asghar

In 2000, Kamran Asghar, a 26-year-old planning director at Ogilvy & Mather, had a vision of starting a media planning agency that could do more for its clients than simply offering reach and clout. “I had always felt that media planning was more about finding better ways to connect with audiences, not about scale,” he says. “At that time, media shops had started unbundling and were going to offer clients more leverage through buying scale. To me, that didn’t sound right.”

So Asghar, along with his Ogilvy colleague Martin Albrecht, launched Crossmedia, an independent media agency that eschewed the traditional siloed departments and focused on collaborating closely with clients. Early clients included Brio Technology and Madison Square Garden. Today, Asghar also counts Whole Foods, New Era, Jägermeister and Vita Coco as clients.

Crossmedia’s specialty is helping brands like Whole Foods without massive media budgets but still requiring top-notch media planning to build long-term brand equity while getting a short-term response.

“Working with Kamran was one of those things that honestly changed my work life,” says University of Michigan athletics CMO Hunter Lochmann, who first worked with Crossmedia when he was with the New York Knicks as vp, marketing. “Crossmedia is nimble, they’re not cookie-cutter, and they take risks,” he adds, noting how impressed he was with the company’s digital acumen.

Last year, Crossmedia launched RedBox, an analytics platform for clients that provides the same level of service associated with large brands without the big price tag. More recently, Asghar oversaw the creation of Crossmedia’s programmatic buying desk, highly unusual for an independent shop. “When you buy programmatically these days, there’s still a lot of data that’s held from the client,” says Asghar. “Our goal is to be 100 percent transparent.”

He adds, “We really feel we’re an alternative to [the other independents] in the market right now.” —Emma Bazilian

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