Women to Watch 2009

Jacki Kelley

President-North America, Universal McCann

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In her first foray into the agency world, Jacki Kelley has certainly jumped into the deep end of the pool. Not only is Ms. Kelley -- who took on the newly created role of president of North America for Interpublic Group of Cos.' Universal McCann on May 1 -- charged with giving a voice to an agency that has been near silent on the new-business front, she will also serve as the face for agency CEO Matt Seiler's vision of establishing an earlier and more strategic and collaborative relationship between media agencies and media owners.

Jacki Kelley

Mr. Seiler said he chose Ms. Kelley -- who has more than 20 years of experience at media companies such as USA Today, Yahoo and, most recently, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, where she was exec VP-media sales -- to lead this ambitious effort because of her lack of agency experience.

"It's great to have people who don't come from our side," Mr. Seiler said. "They don't know what isn't possible, so they'll push forward trying to accomplish what everyone else might think is impossible."

Ms. Kelley, who will oversee planning and buying across all channels, business development and key North American accounts, knows adjusting to agency life will entail learning on the fly, but for her that's an upside. "I enjoy a very fast pace and variety in what I do, and that has been fulfilled for me in spades here already," Ms. Kelley said.

And she's not stressing over the numerous tasks she has before her.

"I don't internalize it as pressure," she said. "I see it as a tremendous privilege and opportunity. I think [reinventing] that relationship between media owner and agency is an important transition and critical solution for us as an industry."

In fact, having a shot at establishing better relations between the two was a challenge the 42-year-old had been looking to tackle for quite some time. In her initial meeting with Mr. Seiler, she told him she had been waiting her entire career for someone at an agency to propose bridging that gap.

And while she's been on the job only a short time, Ms. Kelley said the clients and media owners she has spoken to have been "very receptive" to the idea.

"The challenge for us," she said, "is how do we operationalize and execute this consistently?"

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