Women to Watch 2009

Gail Heimann

Vice Chair, Weber Shandwick

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Weber Shandwick's Gail Heimann is regarded by many in the PR industry as one of the best minds in consumer marketing. But she hasn't remained siloed because, as agency president Andy Polansky puts it, what Ms. Heimann "brings to the table transcends consumer" -- not to mention the U.S. marketplace.

Gail Heimann

So in October of last year, in a move intended to broaden her role inside the agency and bring more value to its clients on a global scale, the agency promoted Ms. Heimann to vice chair, giving her responsibility for Weber's global brand-marketing practice and overall digital strategy, and co-president of its global consumer practice.

Weber Shandwick, Interpublic Group of Cos.' largest PR shop, is one the three biggest global PR networks in the world, and the bump up put Ms. Heimann behind only CEO Harris Diamond, Chairman Jack Leslie and Mr. Polansky in its hierarchy.

As the PR industry battles its way through the recession and budget cuts from clients, Ms. Heimann, who has been at the agency for 14 years and worked on accounts such as Unilever, Microsoft and KFC, said the economic downturn hasn't necessarily changed her approach to the business. But it has caused her to be "hyperconscious of everything I'm doing to be sure ideas are big and bold enough that a client would say, 'This is what I have to do now, because it's going to make a difference.'"

Finding the idea or campaign that will make that difference is the challenge most marketers face today, and luckily for her clients, that challenge is her favorite part of the job.

"Looking at the client issue and figuring out the campaign to solve it is the best part," she said. "The high ultimately is figuring it out and the satisfaction of knowing you have delivered something that will make a difference."

'A strategic mind'
Mr. Polansky said Ms. Heimann is the person many of the agency's clients turn to for the big idea. "She has a very rare gift and a strategic mind that can really size up a situation and come up with some great solutions," Mr. Polansky said. "She's one of the more creative thinkers not just in PR but in the broader marketing-services arena."

The 50-year-old mother of two believes the constantly evolving nature of the industry will keep it fresh and her interest piqued. "We get to write, make videos and applications for Facebook," she said. "There are few paths that anyone could take that would allow them to be a diva across so many categories."

Ms. Heimann said Weber is where she plans on playing out the rest of her career but said she does envision herself being more global and even more channel agnostic.

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