If the Burger King is the sovereign leader of the Home of the Whopper, then Gillian Smith is queen of the digital media realm.
|Gillian Smith, Senior director-media and interactive for Burger King Corp.
Having led the No. 2 burger chain through its most innovative media strategies to build loyalty among "Super Fans," the senior director-media and interactive for Burger King Corp. now is testing ways to direct consumers to stores by their cellphones when they're "about to make a purchase decision," she says.
Since being elevated to her current post from ad manager in 2004, Ms. Smith has continually tried new-media tactics to improve the reach and efficiency of a media budget that's half that of McDonald's Corp. Her experiments have spawned a string of media hits ranging from reality show integrations on Fox's "The Simple Life" and NBC's "The Apprentice" to Super Bowl Whopperettes.com cellphone downloads.
More recently, Ms. Smith scored the "Have It Your Way" confessional on Fox's "Unanimous," where ousted players vent about rivals and viewers can opt in to watch BK TV spots on mobisodes and Fox.com. The mobisodes have drawn hundreds of thousands of streams so far. BK also just inked a deal with Fox and MySpace.com to make its shows available to users of the social network on a dedicated "Have It Your Way" page.
"Nothing is off-limits," says Jeff Hicks, CEO-president of BK shop Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami. "Gillian is one of the types who say, 'Bring it on.' " Ms. Smith, 32, is never far from her BlackBerry, and she's hooked on Google Video to share photos of her two children with her German-born husband's family.
She credits the autonomy she had working as a brand manager for Fanta at Coca-Cola Co.'s German unit for her willing approach to risk-taking. Ms. Smith joined BK in 2000 from Sunbeam Corp., where she launched Oster.com.
When she started at BK, she first worked in product marketing on breakfast, shifted to advertising manager on children and adult marketing, then moved to her current role.
For somebody new to the media game, "she has more expertise than people who've been in [it] their entire life," says Shari Cohen, president and co-executive director of national broadcast at MindShare, New York. "She's virtually unparalleled in terms of emerging media ... and finding incremental value."