Helen Kellie: Q&A

  • Click here to read the cover story relating to this ’British talent’s platform for international growth’
  • Click here to see marketers questions to BBC Worldwide global head of Marketing Helen Kellie

Marketing Week (MW) Can you describe the aim of BBC Worldwide?

Helen Kellie (HK) We are a £1bn business and have been growing by 7-10% over the past few years. We acquire intellectual property and programme rights from the BBC and add value to it. For example, we will buy the rights to Top Gear and develop the magazine, live show and website to drive profits, as well as developing the format for distribution in international markets.

MW How is marketing part of BBC Worldwide’s growth strategy?

HK Marketing is central to driving not only the BBC brand, but also key title brands such as Lonely Planet, Doctor Who and Top Gear, as well as individual channels such as BBC Knowledge and CBeebies. We have also done things such as agency deals and in 2009 we consolidated all our media buying into Zenith.

MW What does your role specifically involve?

HK I have a marketing director in each key business [for each brand] and we work closely with each managing director to understand their ambitions. I need to really understand their business to make sure the marketing delivers ROI as hard and fast as possible. But I have a wider long-term strategy of driving all our big brands. There might be some things that don’t see a return immediately, but there are things that we know will be important in the future. We have to balance both.

MW How does what happens at the BBC affect BBC Worldwide?

HK We have a very clear agenda of what we’re doing, and a lot of that is outside the UK. So a lot of the time it’s also about not getting distracted by what happens at the BBC. Our relationship is very important and we need a strong, healthy BBC that continues to develop great shows. But we have our own agenda in terms of driving the best commercial value out of the intellectual property the BBC develops and we acquire from it.

MW: You are BBC Worldwide’s first marketing director, and you are on the company’s board. How does that influence the business?

HK When my role was created, it was specifically to be on the board – my role didn’t really exist in previous forms. Our chief executive, John Smith, has a very clear vision of our strategy, and part of that is growing through branded properties. He recognised that to do that he needed to have a marketer embedded in the business.

MW Do you have a strategy for how you approach your position and dealings with other board members?

HK You need to make sure you are clear on what marketing is there to do, and that you don’t go into marketing bollocks – you straight talk. As a member of the board, I’m not just contributing in terms of a brand and marketing story, but I am part of shaping where the whole business is going. I need to be as commercial as our managing directors or I’m not going to be able to understand the business in the right way.

MW You were once an FMCG marketer at Reckitt Colman [now Benckiser]. How does it compare with your current role?

HK I worked at Reckitt in the US business just as it was setting up global brands. I learned a lot about how clear you have to be – what are the things that are too strategically important to compromise, but what other things can you let go of?

Recognising what local nuances we needed to take into account and what can be globally uniform is important, too. For example, for home hygiene brand Dettol, the medical endorsement is useful around the world. Showing a baby crawling across a newly cleaned floor is an iconic shot that you use in almost every market. But then what smells clean is different for each market. It’s predominantly lemon in South America, lavender in France and pine in the UK and US.

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