For marketers such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sprint Corp., Ms. Groft has been building what she calls "predictive advertising and media effectiveness models," tools that will help clients know which mix of media will come up with predictable results. The goal, she says, "is to find leading, creative media solutions with enforced accountability and measurement."
"I believe these [technology marketers] will change the way we think about and measure media in the future, the same way package-good products led the way so many years ago," says Ms. Groft, senior VP-corporate media director at the Publicis Groupe shop in San Francisco.
The agency created the "Advertising Recall Center," a database of some 17,000 ads in more than 45 publications. The database tries to offer insights into the best ad unit size, premium ad positions that boost recall scores, and best titles and editorial sections for specific clients.
Ms. Groft is crafty with words as well as with numbers. She broke new ground in newspaper negotiations, eventually resulting in $11 million in savings for Sprint.
Kathy Alspaugh, senior director-strategic media, Sprint consumer and business group, notes that many of today's measuring devices were designed for package-goods, not the fast moving telecom business. "We are forging ahead with the development of predictative models" to be sure Sprint is maintaining cost efficiencies, Ms. Alspaugh says.
Ms. Groft, says Ms. Alspaugh, "is able to listen to a situation and understand what she's hearing and translate that to a strategic solution-it's a wonderful gift."
Ms. Groft, 43, was born near the small West Virginia town of Moundsville, the daughter of an accountant. She played her way through high school on the clarinet, joining every band and orchestra available, sometimes taking the role of drum major and concertmaster.
She surprised family and friends when she studied not music, but advertising at the University of Illinois. She liked the classes' formulas and numbers, and realized, since nobody appeared to like the field, it would give her an edge in her job hunt. It didn't, at least not right away.
Her first job was with at an in-house ad agency for a Chicago retailer that hired her as a secretary, with her first day on the job centered on how to make coffee.
After working at a number of Chicago agencies, Ms. Groft was chosen as media director at Riney, filling the shoes of David Verklin, who was media director and general manager, and had left to go to Aegis Group's Carat North America, where he's now CEO.
When Ms. Groft got her first job in a media department, "I thought I had hit the big time because I would go home and see the ad on TV," she says. She still gets the same thrill, but perhaps on a slightly grander scale.