Her high-school teachers considered her gifted in science and math. But Kathy Biro decided to be an English teacher. "Like all good women, I went from being an English teacher to publishing to advertising. Then I got into banking technology." And that's when female camaraderie became sparse, she says. "As one of the few women in technology at this level, it gets kind of lonely."
At least she never let the loneliness hold her back. Ms. Biro, CEO and co-founder of Strategic Interactive Group--the interactive arm of Boston-based holding company Bronnercom, which includes direct marketing agency BSH, formerly Bronner Slosberg Humphrey--also recently was named Bronnercom's vice chairman.
QUALITY NOT QUANTITY
Strategic Interactive Group, No. 10 on Ad Age's Interactive 100 Web-shop roster, has intentionally kept its client list short for an agency its size. American Express Co., AT&T Corp., Dell Computer Corp., Federal Express Corp., General Motors Corp., Johnson & Johnson, Kraft Foods and only a few others make up the shop's roster.
"We want [large]-scale, long-term relationships with clients," she says, explaining that she has tried to build Strategic Interactive Group as a business partner for marketers rather than just an interactive advertising agency. The unit currently maintains a staff of 250 people in offices in Boston, London, New York and San Francisco.
Ms. Biro says her early attraction to technology led her to her position today. "I was involved so early on as a gadget hound. In fact, I have one of the first PCs that ever were sent to New York. What I am doing now is the culmination of a more than 15-year wait for the technology to deliver on its promise of changing the world."
When asked how the Internet will change business, Ms. Biro replies, "It's not even a question of how the Internet will affect business; it is business.
BRANDING: PARAMOUNT IMPORTANCE
"But I'm not sure the advertising industry has quite caught up with it," she says. "Advertising and marketing worldwide is never going to be the same. Advertising in the future will not be something you endure but something you choose."
Ms. Biro adds that to be successful in the Internet age, marketers will have to figure out how to become relevant in a wired world.
"The biggest risk to marketers today is that they will be fully commoditized by the Internet. So branding becomes of paramount importance. We have to figure out how to brand companies in this space because it is going to get more and more competitive."
Copyright November 1999, Crain Communications Inc.