Women to Watch 2009

Jeri Ward

General Manager-Marketing and Strategy, Audi of America

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- Jeri Ward, who arrived at Audi of America two years ago as general manager-marketing and strategy from Ford, recalls sitting around a table last November at Venables Bell & Partners, in San Francisco, with several agency officials and her boss trying to figure out what "big moments in America" they could capitalize on early in 2009. That's how the idea to tie into the presidential inauguration was born.

Jeri Ward

The Michigan native, who saw her duties expand four months after arriving and now oversees 15 staffers, headed a cross-functional team that developed and executed Audi's multimedia blitz, which she said came at a "relatively low cost." The group had 45 days to meet the deadline and do the media deals and creative. During that stretch, which included the winter holidays, Ms. Ward also oversaw Audi's second straight Super Bowl ad appearance, which was just two weeks after President Barack Obama's big day.

The inaugural blitz that put Audi virtually everywhere that day -- in a smart way -- and exceeded Audi's projections 62%, with a tally of 111 million media impressions and traffic to Audiusa.com spiking 555%. The results so impressed parent Germany's Audi AG that it's using it as a benchmark best practice.

"Bringing this idea to life shows how we are nimble, bold and willing to take risks," Ms. Ward said. "We saw an opportunity and seized it. As a result, we beat our competitors to the punch."

Ms. Ward, 37, said Audi is outspent in advertising by some of its top rivals, which is why the brand aims for high-impact ad opportunities.

She started her professional career as a mechanical engineer but returned to Northwestern University for her master's in marketing. Her advertising philosophy has three tenets: Be true to the brand, and don't do a program unless it fits; keep learning and innovating; and foster an environment that encourages new ideas. She sees her role at Audi as an "enabler" of new ideas. "I would always rather be presented with bold ideas that make me uncomfortable than to have only flat ideas that we must try to pump up into something bigger," she said.

Audi Chief Marketing Officer Scott Keogh said although Ms. Ward came from a "significantly bigger organization, she has brought a lot of speed" and a positive, can-do attitude to his team.

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