A new sort of leader

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Jan klug, 41, was promoted to VP-global marketing at Ford Motor Co. in March. She rose quickly through the ranks, having joined Ford in June 1998 as marketing communications manager, or advertising chief, at Ford Division. In her new post, the type of leader Ford expects to utilize in the 21st century, Ms. Klug oversees global marketing, relationship marketing, consumer research, dealer marketing and a staff of 200 people.

The Chicago native, a self-described "gearhead," is the granddaughter of a Ford dealer. She says she grew up in a family of car nuts. "Much to my mother's chagrin," she recalls, "I ditched dolls for dirt bikes."

Ms. Klug's ad career started in 1986, when she joined Bcom3 Group's Leo Burnett USA, Chicago. She worked on leading accounts, including General Motors Corp.'s Oldsmobile brand. She recently spoke with Advertising Age Detroit Bureau Chief Jean Halliday.

Ad Age: Which carmakers will succeed in the 21st century?

Ms. Klug: You have to get the fundamentals right-the products, the cost controls, shareholder values. You get more through the same assets. You use technology to get out cost redundancies. You don't put too much stuff in the vehicle that the customer doesn't really want. ... The car company that can talk to customers on their terms will win.

AA: What's your biggest priority now?

Ms. Klug: Understanding how all my groups can make more rapid connections with end users. It's about better understanding our customers and who they are. We tend to have pretty broad brushes to paint them.

AA: What's your biggest challenge?

Ms. Klug: I want to get my group out of the theoretical and into action with ruthless or flawless execution. I think we have great strategies, very well-thought-out strategies. Now we need to deploy our great thinking, pick our battles and win. We need to continue learning from customers. We need to transform our strategies and put them into place, but they need to be flexible enough to accommodate consumer shifts. I want to provide turnkey programs [to the vehicle divisions] that can knit things together that are now in silos. I want to be careful not to create stuff the divisions don't want.

AA: What about your role in raising the creative bar for Ford Division's advertising by WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson USA, Detroit?

Ms. Klug: J. Walter Thompson was a reflection of us. They had all our warts. They needed to have a champion here. ... I changed the processes-the biggest issue was interpreting the strategy creatively. In advertising you have to be selfless to get any fulfillment. Good agency guys give away good ideas. The grounding I've had on the agency side is getting people to realize the strengths inside themselves to be innovative and courageous. That's what happened with J. Walter Thompson.

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