The Player: Shetty working with BMW, but now on the agency side

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Baba Shetty sees lots of familiar faces in his new job as group account director on BMW of North America at Fallon, Minneapolis. That's because the 38-year-old Iowa native spent seven-and-a-half years at BMW working with Fallon. He left BMW as marketing communications manager in 2000 to start and head Forester Research's automotive practice.

Mr. Shetty said he left the automaker because "I loved the notion of trying to focus on how the auto industry could benefit from all the changing technology, like new media, especially for younger audiences."

lessons learned

In his last gig as research director, he wrote a syndicated report revealing that online car shoppers who had "abysmal" experiences at an automaker's Web site dropped that brand from shopping lists. Measuring traffic and time online offers marketers limited data since visitors may have to stay at a site longer to find what they want.

"This is a great opportunity to be at Fallon working on BMW because early on, it understood the importance of the online medium," he stated. While he feels many people have a difficult time jumping the fence from the client to agency side, he believes Forester was a good training ground. He learned client service while consulting with automakers.

Mr. Shetty has a master's degree in marketing and finance from New York's University of Rochester. He started his auto career in 1990 at Mazda North American Operations, where he spent three years as a product planner.

He describes himself as an early adopter of interactive technology. "I was the first in my neighborhood to get broadband. I'm mesmerized by the possibilities of the technology." His job at Forester "was almost like a post-graduate in technology." Among his challenges at Fallon is to find alternatives to traditional media channels.

Jim McDowell, VP-marketing, BMW, and Mr. Shetty's old boss, said his former charge started in the 3 Series product group as a manager. "He had a lot of talent so we groomed him cross-functionally."

film factor

Mr. Shetty rose to head of communications, which includes advertising, media, databases and direct marketing. "He was a very, very important factor" in BMW's decision to do its acclaimed online film series, Mr. McDowell said. BMW was a bit exasperated to lose him to Forester, but understood it was a good career move.

Mr. McDowell was thrilled to learn Mr. Shetty was on Fallon's short list for the job to replace Ginny Grossman, whom he dubbed "nearly irreplaceable."

Bruce Bildsten, creative director at Fallon, said Ms. Grossman "was ready to simplify her life and pursue her dream" of photography. He put Mr. Shetty on his "dream team" list for her job but "thought it was a pipe dream he'd come over and join us." He described Mr. Shetty as very smart, very bright, both on strategy and creativity. "He's just stellar."

Fast Facts

Name: Baba Shetty

Age: 38

Now:Group Account Director, BMW, Fallon, Minneapolis

Challenge: Maintaining BMW's clear brand image in today's crowded landscape.

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