Karen L. Seamen


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Karen L. Seamen says she's not satisfied with running the flagship office of the country's fourth-largest independent agency, Cramer-Krasselt.
Karen L. Seamen, exec VP-general manager, Cramer-Krasselt

"Being No. 4 isn't enough," she says. "I want us to move up to No. 1."

Ms. Seamen, 49, joined Cramer-Krasselt as an account supervisor in 1988 and has added management responsibilities over the years, culminating in her elevation to general manager of the Chicago headquarters last year.

In that time, Cramer-Krasselt's billings grew from $52 million to $642 million, cracking Advertising Age's top 25 last year. A large part of that growth is owed to long-tenured accounts Ms. Seamen has spearheaded, including CareerBuilder, ATA Airlines and Hyatt Hotels. In a recent new-business win, the shop a couple weeks ago snared Coleman Natural Foods' account.

On CareerBuilder, she deployed the now-famous "office chimps" in buzz-generating Super Bowl spots, and then leveraged their popularity through viral "Monk-e-Mail" messages that gave the job-listing Web site a free additional brand boost.

On Hyatt, Ms. Seamen played a key role in concocting and promoting a lowest-rate "guarantee" on the company's Web site, which Tom O'Toole, Hyatt senior VP-strategy and systems, calls "the best marketing activity we've ever done." Ms. Seamen also persuaded the hotel chain to invest heavily on TV last year, a spending spree that boosted sales accordingly.

"Not bad for someone from Pittsburgh," says Mr. O'Toole, a Cleveland native who notes he has an ongoing football rivalry with Ms. Seamen that hasn't been made any more pleasant by the Pittsburgh Steelers' recent world championship.

Aside from traveling to Pittsburgh for football games -- a pastime aided by Cramer-Krasselt's client roster that includes Pittsburgh-based H.J. Heinz Co. and PNC Financial Services Group -- Ms. Seamen's other habits are more genteel. She's a gardener who sits on the board of Chicago's Garfield Park Conservatory.

"She's great to work with because she's a real, normal person, and she's very, very good at what she does there," says Mr. O'Toole. "I could fully imagine her running the place."

Might Ms. Seamen be interested in succeeding President-CEO Peter Krivkovich, now 59, in a few years? "That," she says, chuckling, "would make a very nice business card."
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