Women to Watch

Women to Watch: Molly Garris, Leo Burnett and Arc Worldwide

'Mobile Molly' Helps Bring Agency Best Known for Its Iconic TV and Print Work Into the Digital Age

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At 31, Molly Garris is responsible for dragging the 75-year-old ad agency that birthed Tony the Tiger and Charlie the Tuna into a new marketing world flooded with smartphones and tablets.

Two years into the job, she has helped add some digital luster to the Leo Burnett brand and, for that , Ms. Garris is known simply around the agency's Chicago offices as "Mobile Molly."

Molly Garris
Molly Garris

Still, it was tough, especially at first, to get the medium noticed at an agency that has made its name in iconic TV and print campaigns, she admits. "I thought: 'There's no work [in mobile]; what I am doing here?'" said Ms. Garris, who had spent most of her young career on the technology side of mobile marketing.

But it didn't take long for clients to start to experiment with mobile apps and now, Ms. Garris reports, there are several people at the agency dedicated to mobile. She still prefers to entice clients, though, with statistics on how many customers are coming to their websites or product reviews via phones and tablets. To continue that charge, the agency, thanks to Ms. Garris and a research team, released a study in March on mobile shopping, as phones have become a frequent companion to consumers in stores.

She has also been responsible for tempering excitement around new technology in mobile. When clients began to flood the agency with calls about QR codes, Ms. Garris helped put together a presentation on their history so that anyone at the agency would be well-equipped on the topic.

After helping craft projects such as Special K's weight-management app MyPlan and an app for Sealy mattresses that tags "In Bed" to photos, Ms. Garris has also been a visible mobile spokeswoman for the agency to help its reputation evolve from Tony and Charlie to cutting-edge digital work.

She has also had to right clients' previous wrongs in mobile, like launching brand apps simply because they were popular. Mobile had left a bad taste in some clients' mouths, when those apps didn't perform as they'd had hoped, Ms. Garris said. "Mobile is new, and a lot of our clients are fairly conservative," she said. "They were nervous to shift budgets, but now conversations don't focus on 'Why mobile?' but 'How do we do it right?'"

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