Women to Watch 2009

Marla Skiko

Senior VP-Director of Digital Innovation, SMG Multicultural

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Holding a digital speed-dating event for major clients is just one way Marla Skiko convinces marketers that Hispanics can be as active online as other consumers -- and sometimes more so.

Marla Skiko

Reaching Hispanics digitally -- from persuading marketers that this niche-within-a-niche is worth targeting to helping them create the content to do so -- is Ms. Skiko's job as senior VP-director of digital innovation at Publicis Groupe's SMG Multicultural, the biggest multicultural media-planning and -buying agency. Many clients are surprised, for instance, when she tells them that Hispanic moms 36 and older outpace non-Latinas in their use of social networks.

"You can see the audience saying, 'Really?'" she said.

SMG Multicultural CEO Monica Gadsby said one of Ms. Skiko's greatest strengths is that she "makes her curiosity contagious, convincing our clients to ... test new digital platforms, formats and ideas to engage multicultural consumers. Marla is always asking questions and challenging the status quo, exploring new what-if scenarios."

Curious clients such as Continental Airlines and Procter & Gamble started innovative digital efforts in the first quarter. A Continental contest invited Hispanics to submit videos about what they love and miss about their homelands and what draws them back. Procter & Gamble owns a new Latina channel on MySpace Latino that rotates among P&G's women's brands, including Cover Girl, Pantene and Always, with content relevant for social media, such as an Always Mood Music Player that lets users build playlists that vary with their moods. To help Head & Shoulders reach men, P&G and Fox Sports en Espanol integrated fake sports news in Fox's sports-coverage videos. In the spoofs, sportscasters talk about their shampoo along with sports news.

Work-life balance
Ms. Skiko, 42, joined Leo Burnett's media department in 1993, then moved to Starcom Hispanic, which later became Tapestry and in 2007 split into two units, Tapestry and 42 Degrees at MediaVest, under SMG Multicultural. Ms. Skiko has achieved a work-life balance rare in demanding jobs, working three days a week to spend more time with her three children.

In 2008, SMG's digital billings doubled, and she expects growth this year, despite the bad economy. One of her team's latest offerings is the creation of digital content, an area often still lacking for Hispanic marketers.

"A lot of clients come to us and say, 'We have traditional Hispanic and general-market shops, but can you come up with digital creative?'" she said. Indeed, with Ms. Skiko's leadership, they can.

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