Player Profile: Argyilan suits up for post at Hill Holliday in Boston

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Exec heads East to new culture, fresh challenges

Kristi Argyilan does nothing in moderation.

As if starting a job as exec VP-media director at Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, moving across country to Boston and looking for a new house in unfamiliar suburbs weren't stressful enough, she and her husband adopted week-old twin boys-all in the last two months.

"I'm used to this drill. This way I can't tell where the stress is really coming from," she said. She's referring to seven years ago, when she took a job heading the media department at San Francisco's Goodby Silverstein & Partners while simultaneously planning her wedding and buying a house.

"If you love this business, it's because you feed on chaos," she said "It's the nature of the business."

ANOTHER LEVEL

At Hill Holliday, the country's 20th largest media agency, Ms. Argyilan, 42, will oversee about 75 planners and buyers, up from about 50 planners at Goodby. Even though Goodby's buying was limited to print, while there she worked closely with Starcom MediaVest and Zenith Media, who bought media for Goodby clients.

"She has a history of having people think [about how to] take the department to a whole different level," said Mike Sheehan, co-president at Hill Holliday.

When Ms. Argyilan began leading the media department at Goodby in 1994, it had 14 people, and its largest account was Polaroid, at $40 million. In the last three to four years, she said, the size of the clients has improved along with the caliber of staff. Today, Goodby's media-planning department houses 60 people, and has three accounts worth over $100 million each: E-Trade, Hewlett-Packard and Discover Card.

"[It's] fully capable of being compared with the big media entities out there," said Ms. Argyilan, Goodby's former associate partner-director of media services.

When Ms. Argyilan and Mr. Sheehan met, they reviewed Hill Holliday's work for clients including FleetBoston Financial Corp., Fidelity Investments and Priceline.com. They discussed why the agency had taken different tacks with campaigns. "It's a very nice reel, and that's very important to me coming from an agency like Goodby," Ms. Argyilan said. "Good creative opens a lot of media doors."

`DIFFERENT CULTURE'

One of the first things that struck her when she went to Hill Holliday was how the suited-up atmosphere differed from the open and loose philosophy at Goodby and the liberal Bay area. "My first reaction was that this is a very different culture," she said. "But the energy is everywhere, and it's very frenetic, and Hill Holliday is a nice environment. When you meet people and talk about the work and talk about where they're headed, you get really excited about it."

Ms. Argyilan said Hill Holliday would allow her the chance to be part of management and to act on her entrepreneurial tendencies. "What I aspire to, and what I'm getting very close to at Hill Holliday, is a chance to run a business. ... I have a lot of energy, and I'm always looking for challenges so I continue to grow," she said. "I love my career. I love where it's gone."

Ms. Argyilan, a music major from Northern Illinois University, enjoys the opera, hiking, running and gardening. She said moving from high-priced San Francisco to Boston, no bargain itself, is like gaining a windfall. "We might even get a yard," she said.

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