"I'm from Surrey," Ms. Seifert said, "which, you know, accounts for the heavy Bronx accent."
But when the conversation turned serious with the troubled retailer, now in bankruptcy, Ms. Seifert had answers.
"They have 227,000 employees who need to get galvanized and believe in a future," Ms. Seifert said. "We said to them, with all that they have going on, they'll never have time to put together a business strategy. We asked if they wanted us to help them. They looked at each other and they were like, `Yeah!' It's exciting for us to be able to help them. Probably for the first time now, Kmart has one voice."
And that proactive approach is exactly what the shop hopes Ms. Seifert will do for its other clients as well.
Formerly director of account management at WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, New York, Ms. Seifert, 40, was named TBWA/Chiat/Day's New York office president on Jan. 4. She succeeded Carl Johnson, who was handling the dual role of New York president and chief operating officer, TBWA Worldwide.
She reports to Tom Carroll, president of the Americas for TBWA Worldwide, who was succinct in his evaluation of Ms. Seifert's abilities.
"Three words," Mr. Carroll said. "She's tough, she's smart and she's fun. Those are all really fantastic qualities and that's why she's great."
Ms. Seifert said the agency gave her direction, but not a priority.
"What we've really got to get people to think about is thought leadership and really deliver disruption in the marketplace for our clients," she said.
Ms. Seifert's career has spanned various sectors of the industry, from working with Nestle to leading BMW's strategic brand communications across Asia Pacific to launching Kimberly-Clark Corp.'s infant-care business in South Africa.
While at Ogilvy, she worked on the creative end of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and most recently worked on the AT&T Wireless campaign that introduced the mLife concept.
Alan Levitt, director of the anti-drug advertising program for ONDCP, worked closely with Ms. Seifert for three years.
"She was superb at what she did," he said. "She had no personal life and worked all the time. She was the first person I talked to in the morning and the last person I talked to at night. It was incredible client service."
"That's true, about the personal life part," Ms. Seifert said with a laugh. "We figured if we saved a few children from drugs, it was worth it. It was social marketing, which was different than anything we've done."
Now Ms. Seifert has several accounts to oversee and hopes she also makes a difference in those.
"It's not about account management," she said. "It's about business leadership."
contributing: ira teinowitz
NAME: Shona Seifert
NOW: President, TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York
CHALLENGE: To provide leadership in the office and brand stewardship for its clients.