Kaplan: Hill’s Long Rising Star

Karen Kaplan has had a new job almost every year since she graduated from college.

But unlike most professionals today, Kaplan, 41, has stayed with one company, recently having been named executive vice president and managing director at Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos. In this role, Kaplan will continue her work with FleetBoston and John Hancock Financial Services, two of the Boston agency’s flagship clients.

Kaplan’s tenure with the Interpublic Group firm began in 1982 when she was hired as a receptionist shortly after graduating from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst with a degree in French literature and intentions of attending law school.

“I sort of stumbled into the ad business,” Kaplan said.

Evidently, the field suited her, as she was promoted to traffic assistant the following year and traffic manager the year after that. In 1985, she was named assistant account executive on Wang Laboratories, which at the time was arguably the agency’s showpiece account.

She continued to rise through the ranks, holding about eight other positions until, in mid-1999, she was named executive vice president and group account director in charge of John Hancock and Fleet.

“She truly understands what it’s like at every level of this agency,” said president/chief creative officer Mike Sheehan.

Kaplan and Sheehan take over various duties from June Blocklin, Hill, Holliday co-president, who is leaving for a senior post at agency client UPromise [Adweek, Feb. 19].

Career highlights, Kaplan said, include the 1985 “Real Life, Real Answers” campaign she helped craft for Hancock and last summer’s Fleet campaign promoting its Major League Baseball sponsorship.

“I thought I would have had 10 different jobs by now—and I have,” she said. “They’ve just all been at Hill, Holliday.”

Kaplan becomes one of the highest ranking managers at Hill, Holliday, the region’s second largest traditional ad agency.