Player Profile: Kathi Loves moves to MRI with mandate for change

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Her resume's loaded with top-level research jobs, but at breakfast on her 11th day as Mediamark Research Inc.'s president-chief operating officer, Kathi Love sounds downright modest. "This really is a dream job," she said. "I hope I'm up to the challenge."

Those familiar with her experience might be surprised to hear that. Ms. Love spent 14 years at New York Times Co. properties -- initially a way station before returning to academia -- and ended up marketing director for the Gray Lady. In 1996, she began a two-year stint as VP-research director for the Magazine Publishers of America. Then she headed to Emap Petersen; as VP-research and advertising planning, she directed marketing and media research for the company's patchwork quilt of niche titles.

"Knowing Kathi, we didn't have a whole lot of doubt she was the person," said Alain Tessier, co-founder and CEO of Mediamark.

Indeed, Ms. Love, 47, lands at MRI when magazine research is, as she put it, "in flux." Consumers' time crunch makes MRI's data-gathering, personal-interviewing process more difficult. The role of the Web, and MRI's role in measuring readership via that medium, remains a question.


And advertisers are enamored of passive-metered measurement of broadcast media. At one recent agency panel conducted by the MPA's research committee, Ms. Love heard firsthand how some potential MRI constituents have fanciful dreams of tallying magazine audiences.

"What they said -- and it got a great laugh -- was `What I'd really like is to make everyone wear some sort of bracelet and have everything measured passively,' " she recalled. "The desire to have all media measured outside the realm of awareness of respondents is a present desire -- and, obviously, not possible."


Her sense of the possible allowed Ms. Love to succeed with a series of challenging managerial tasks. While at The New York Times in 1994, she helmed a plan to implement McKinsey & Co.'s structural changes of the ad sales force. At Emap, Ms. Love created a research and planning department to overlay the publisher's 160 titles.

Her appointment as second-in-command -- some would say heir apparent -- to one of the two giants of magazine research came just before Philip Morris USA crunched MRI and Simmons Media Research teen-readership data to divine which titles it would pull cigarette ads from, and an upcoming Simmons study was cited as the great hope for accurate teen measurement.

Making MRI the undisputed go-to guy in the business is one of Ms. Love's challenges. Another is "a desire to move the organization" towards having a stronger focus on its data customers. She also sees opportunities in repackaging MRI data for new clients. "There are endeavors we could undertake to make better use of our own data."

Her boss makes clear how free her rein will be. "Kathi's coming with an opportunity to say, `Wait, let's take stock of this,' " said Mr. Tessier. Which is to say that while Ms. Love's mien might be modest, the moves she'll make might not be.

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