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When CMOs talk, Kevin Gentzel listens

Kevin Gentzel

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Company: Forbes Media
Location: New York
Title: Chief revenue officer
Big move: Forbes Media consolidates sales and marketing leadership, naming former president and group publisher as its first chief revenue officer.
Core responsibilities: Gentzel will lead North American and European advertising sales and marketing initiatives for Forbes, forbes.com, ForbesLife and ForbesWoman.

Kevin Gentzel has done his homework. The former president and publisher of Forbes Media sat down with about 70 CMOs and top agency executives over the past 18 months, tapping into the collective expertise found in the company's own CMO Network. The result: A new brand strategy, new accountability tools and an overhaul of the structure of Forbes Media's sales force.

In February, the company gave its endorsement to Gentzel's vision, naming him as its first chief revenue officer. The move consolidated all North American and European advertising sales and marketing responsibilities for Forbes magazine, forbes.com, ForbesLife and ForbesWoman under his leadership.

“The CMO practice that we built really taught us a lot,” Gentzel said. “We were able to get into the minds of the top marketers in the country and listen in a way that helped us think about how we take the brand and our products to market. All of these things put us in a good position.”

Gentzel had a hand in creating the CMO Network, a Forbes Media community serving the growing field of chief marketing officers, which launched in 2009.

“As we listened to them, we began to fully develop the way we were positioning our brand in the marketplace, and that's around trust, reach and results,” he said.

The CMOs he spoke with continually referred to the need to manage reputation, he said, and in March Forbes Media rolled out its response, a reputation tracker that measures the impact a print or Web campaign has on its target audience.

Advertisers also asked to work with sales contacts who knew how to leverage the full capabilities of Forbes Media, Gentzel said—a request that led to the integration of the print and Web sales teams. The company continues to cross-train its sales force and is currently hiring additional staff as it positions itself for a rebound in advertising sales.

“We're starting to feel a resurgence in the marketplace through advertisers renewing with us, advertisers investing in multiplatform programs and new advertisers,” Gentzel said. “The long tail of advertising is expanding at a rate that we haven't seen in some time. That's not just in digital but in print, too. We're starting to feel a real bounce-back in both mediums.”

Large traditional verticals such as financial services and automotive have since the start of the year started to pick up their spending, Gentzel said, and he expects an even stronger showing in the second half. “The big idea and conceptual presentations that we're giving, the feedback from clients that we're hearing [indicates] these marketers are starting to come back to advertise.”

While he expects both print and online revenue to rise, the Web will continue to be the growth engine, he said. The company has developed a robust site and also is partnering with mobile platforms to connect its audience to new content and relevant advertisements when they are off-site. It's currently working to introduce a number of iPad apps centered on its investment guide and power and wealth list, Gentzel said.

The investments the company is making are positioning it for growth, he added.

“We're going to be looking at our total portfolio of advertisers and looking to grow the actual number of advertisers on the site and the magazine,” he said. “We're looking to break accounts that we haven't carried in the last year.”

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