Best & Brightest Media Strategists: Vickie Szombathy

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Vickie Szombathy is a 23-year media veteran who is dedicated to bringing innovation and creativity to b-to-b marketing.

As VP-media director at StarLink Worldwide, Chicago, Szombathy leads media planning for b-to-b clients including construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar, printer company Heidelberg USA and industrial color and graphic design company X-Rite.

She is also chairwoman of the b-to-b committee for the American Association of Advertising Agencies and chairwoman of the media advisory board for American Business Media.

During the past year, Szombathy has created breakthrough media placements for StarLink's clients. She sums up her approach to media as: "Understanding who your client's customers are and connecting to something that is a passion for them."

Szombathy used this approach when developing a branded entertainment campaign for Caterpillar, a first for the construction equipment manufacturer. The goal was to connect to the heart and soul of many of Caterpillar's customers, she said.

Caterpillar's target customers are in the construction and landscaping industries, and research found that many of them are also motorcycle enthusiasts and fans of TV shows about motorcycles.

So, in an innovative media deal, Szombathy crafted a partnership between Caterpillar and Discovery Channel to build a Caterpillar custom motorcycle on the popular program "American Chopper," starring the Teutel family. During a two-part program, the Teutels built a motorcycle that mirrored Caterpillar earth-moving equipment, down to the gears and pipes. Following the show, Caterpillar took the custom motorcycle to its dealers and events, such as the ConEx construction equipment show in Las Vegas.

"The whole idea was to leverage the relationship with Discovery Channel and programming to get the chopper built, then put it on a national stage for Caterpillar to reinforce dealers' efforts," Szombathy said.

The media program and road show resulted in triple the expected traffic at trade shows and dealerships.

In another creative media deal this year, Szombathy led efforts to develop custom cover wraps for client Heidelberg with American Printer magazine.

The cover wraps included 52 custom drawings based on the first and last names of subscribers (26 unique front covers and 26 unique back covers, one for each letter of the alphabet) and were sent to 82,000 American Printer subscribers to demonstrate Heidelberg's custom printing capabilities.

"It was a clear demonstration of what the Heidelberg technology could do," Szombathy said.

Inside the magazine was an eight-page insert describing the technology for variable data printing.

The program generated qualified sales leads for Heidelberg totaling $37 million in potential revenue, with a total media investment of less than $50,000.

In addition to working with StarLink's clients, Szombathy is also spearheading industry efforts through her committee work for the Four A's and ABM. For the Four A's b-to-b committee, she is working to develop more research on b-to-b decision-makers.

As chairwoman of the ABM media advisory board, Szombathy is working on a joint project with the Four A's to develop a standard format for requests for proposals (RFPs) that will make media planning more efficient.

Szombathy joined StarLink in 1999 as part of the agency's founding team. Prior to that, she was at the Nahser Agency in Chicago as VP-media director. She also worked as a media planner for DDB Needham. Szombathy started her advertising career in 1982 as a spot media buyer for D'Arcy MacManus & Masius, St. Louis.

-Kate Maddox

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