The Career Mistake Too Many Young Women Make, According to Jacki Kelley

Basics Q&A: UM Global CEO on Media Sellers, Agency Challenges and Women in Leadership

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Jacki Kelley has seen the media business from both sides of the desk, as a seller at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and as a buyer at Universal McCann, where she has been global CEO since January 2011 and was president for North America before that .

Jacki Kelley
Jacki Kelley

She told us what she doesn't miss from her days in sales, what's harder about the agency side and how too many young women are setting back their careers.

Advertising Age: You've worked on both sides of media. How do you approach media owners now that you're on the other side?

Jacki Kelley: There are two things I think anyone who has been on the sales side will do differently: time and transparency. Most media owners have had an agency reach out to them and say, in 48 hours we need your best idea that accomplishes these relatively broad objectives, and we'd like you to turn it around. That's not how you'll get the best idea. You need to work with media owners about insights and behaviors and engagement about the brand. Media owners know so much about their audiences and I want to be the agency media owners want to work with.

There are a lot of things you can automate through demand-side platforms, but for tentpole campaigns you want to have a level of partnership. And these quick turnarounds are lazy.

Ad Age : What have you changed then at UM?

Ms. Kelley: We have hired what we call "experience architects" and they come from diverse backgrounds -- content producers, creative agencies. And we have them embedded in the planning teams to identify these key tentpole opportunities with media owners to make sure the level of creation is happening beyond a 48-hour turnaround.

Ad Age : What are the advantages and disadvantages of being on each side?

Ms. Kelley: On the sales side, the number of clients a media owner has is much wider to ensure success. On the agency side, you need to make sure the satisfaction is higher. If you lose a big client, the risks are higher.

Ad Age : What's the one thing you miss about the sales side? The one thing you don't miss?

Ms. Kelley: The thing I probably miss are sales conferences. At a sales meeting, you get this incredibly passionate group of people that believe their one brand can indeed change the world. Sales people are resilient as hell and I do miss the annual sales meeting. I don't miss the weekly meeting to forecast revenue when the chief revenue officer is the only one with a crystal ball.

Ad Age : You have some strong and insightful views on women in leadership. Can you share some?

Ms. Kelley: I want to encourage young women to not make career decisions too early when they are making life decisions. Because they can pause their careers too significantly when they didn't need to and that 's what prevents us from having women to choose from for leadership roles. Because they stepped off when they didn't need to.

I've seen women who have young children and are nervous and skeptical about taking a bigger role, but I believe when you step into those bigger roles you will figure out how to balance it and I am happy to help them figure it out. We can talk ourselves out of things based on what we assume the reality might be instead of experiencing the reality.

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