Universal McCann Taps Kelley as N.A. President

Jacki Kelley’s career spans just over two decades, all of it on the sales and marketing side of the media business. Now, she’s jumping to a media agency, to take the newly created position of North America president at Interpublic Group’s Universal McCann, reporting to Matt Seiler, the shop’s global CEO.

It’s Seiler’s latest move to reshape the agency, which he joined eight months ago, and signals his effort to redefine the agency’s relationships with media owners. There’s more to come: in coming weeks, UM will appoint a handful of North American executives who will serve as liaisons to specific media companies with which they will forge deeper, more meaningful ties.

Seiler said he talked with several candidates at other media agencies about the new 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 explained that he believes buyer-seller relationships lack depth and focus too much on the final transaction. Instead, he says 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.”

Enter Kelley, who spent 18 years in various functions at Gannett’s USA Today, including circulation and ad posts at both domestic and international operations before joining Yahoo in 2006 as senior vp of advertising just as digital devices and services were gaining critical mass with consumers. In 2007, she joined Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia as executive vp of media sales where she led the creation of an integrated media team. She will start at UM in late April or early May.

Why jump now to the buy side? Kelley said 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, said Kelley, “it’s more uncommon than any of us would like.”

And it’s got to change or agencies could find themselves on the outside looking in, she added. “Media companies have bypassed agencies in order to get to clients and execute on a more strategic level. It’s how media owners want to engage.”

Seiler said he ultimately plans to export this structure for interacting with media to other parts of the world. While sellers across the globe have different set-ups, with some adjustments, “I think it is template-able,” he said.