Procter & Gamble Co., the country's largest advertiser, employs a lot of marketers and agencies to carry out its many brand messages. But Katie Ford, exec VP-managing director at Starcom MediaVest Group and lead strategist for SMG's North American P&G business, wants the messaging to start with the consumers.
With oversight of communications strategy for more than 20 brands and an ad budget that has increased 17% since 2010, Ms. Ford is in the midst of a paradigm shift of sorts for P&G's brand strategy. Instead of focusing exclusively on scale, the previous metric of choice for big brands such as Secret, CoverGirl and Crest, Ms. Ford has helped invert the brands' communications funnel to focus on targeting and niche audiences.
"By shifting the focus from users to consumers' voices, Katie truly understands her client's business, and I know P&G values that tremendously," said Lisa Donohue, CEO of Starcom USA. "She sees the big picture, is future-focused and is an incredible asset to Starcom."
Part of this strategy has made P&G's brands some of the most-followed in social media. Secret has more than 960,000 fans on Facebook and CoverGirl has more than 100,000 followers on Twitter, giving each brand its own channel to introduce messages. "Our consumers often know more about our brands than we do, so it's important that we continue to find new ways to speak to them directly," Ms. Ford said.
Ms. Ford has held several key leadership positions at SMG, including a stint as global director of Coca-Cola's North American client relationships from 2002 to 2004, when she oversaw 23 SMG international assignments from New York, as well as head of activation for SAB Miller from 2006 to 2009 and head of strategy for client Luxottica in 2010. Her various roles have taken her from Chicago to Mexico to China to New York and back to Starcom's Chicago headquarters, worldly experiences that now inform her strategy work in territories such as Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
"Always one to raise her hand and jump onboard, Katie is a team player who is more than willing to do what it takes to add more accomplishments to her list," Ms. Donohue said. "When you combine her passions for product, brand-building and strategic solutions, its clear Katie is a perfect fit for her new, exciting role."