One marketer on why being ‘like a Swiss army knife’ is key to career success

Story of my CV: Visa’s head of global marketing platforms Kim Kadlec worked her way up at agencies before switching to media companies to merge brands with content, but now has her sights firmly set on mastering technology and data.

You only have to take one glance at Kim Kadlec’s CV to see that her career has variety at its very core. Steadily working her way up the career ladder within the agency world, she quickly identified what made her tick – working on different projects and with a large variety of clients, and soaking up knowledge in the process. She has stuck to this principle throughout her career. Kadlec believes that staying in the same role or the same company for a long period of time “isn’t always the right answer”.

“I believe people are better off when they get different types of experiences, because you’re constantly pushing into areas that you’re not 100% familiar with. It’s certainly a less comfortable route to take, but it’s way more rewarding. You become more of a Swiss army knife than a single serve,” she says.

After working with a variety of clients in the agency world, including Coca-Cola, Campbell Soup Company and Hyundai, Kadlec plunged herself into media by joining Fox as vice-president for marketing and sales in 2002. At the time, media owners were still trying to figure out how to blend brands into TV content – something she was tasked with solving at Fox and NBC Universal. This was not always easy.

“The thought of changing a storyline because of a sponsor – this wasn’t readily accepted. Finding the producers and writers who were open minded wasn’t easy to do. It took a lot of work on both sides to find ways to authentically integrate brands,” she explains.

After nearly nine years at Johnson & Johnson and a one-year stint at AOL, Kadlec figured out what she wanted to focus on next: data and technology. Working at Publicis, she shadowed Razorfish, Sapient and Digitas to get a deeper understanding of “how to have a discipline around big data so you’re not buried by it”.

This is also where she first got in touch with Visa – her current employer. Her mission now is to enable Visa to become the most “data-led impactful marketer in the world”. But Kadlec was particularly attracted to the brand’s focus to keep developing. “Visa is [charting] new territory in terms of what the future of payments will look like,” she says.

READ MORE: One digital innovator on his rise to CMO

Developing a taste for diverse work

Backer Spielvogel Bates, media director (1984–1993)

Photo credit: ilaria

“I started my career at a media agency. My first account was Hyundai and we introduced the brand to the US. At the time, media was part of a full-service agency; it wasn’t separate yet. This job gave me my first glimpse into advertising and I loved it.

“What I loved most was the ability to work across very diverse skill sets, but to also have the ability to move around clients. So I started on Hyundai, but ended up having the chance to work on Miller Brewing, Campbell Soup Company and Prudential Insurance.

“This is what I love so much about marketing and advertising: there’s never a dull moment and there’s always a very steep learning curve if you so choose.”

Merging marketing and content

Universal McCann, senior vice-president (2002–2003)

coke americal idol

“During my time at McCann I worked on the Coca-Cola business for a while, which was one of the founding sponsors for American Idol.

“I got closely involved in the industry’s first big effort around branded entertainment and integrating a brand into a prime-time programme.

“The brand started to get involved in the room where they’d talk to people auditioning on the show, it eventually evolved with a Coca-Cola sofa in that room that looked like a dynamic ribbon in their packaging.

“And ultimately you had the cups of Coke on the judges’ tables. It was a really interesting time, and it sparked my interest in exploring how you merge marketing and content.”

Overcoming obstacles

NBC Universal, vice-president, branded entertainment (2004)

“For NBC Universal I launched the network’s first division dedicated to integrating brand storytelling into TV content. It was an incredible evolution of melding media, creativity and content together. I just fell in love with it.

“I particularly like the competitive tension between sales and the creators, producers of shows and the writers who initially were very much against having any brand risk their show or content.

“But we’ve seen examples over time where it has become much more integrated, natural and it doesn’t feel superficial. The thought of changing a storyline because of a sponsor – this wasn’t readily accepted. Finding the producers and writers who were open minded wasn’t that easy. It took a lot of work on both sides to find ways to authentically integrate brands.”

Exploring the world for the first time

Johnson & Johnson, worldwide vice-president, global marketing group (2005-2014)

“Following my stint at some of the media giants, I moved to Johnson & Johnson to lead its global marketing group. It was my very first client-side job. It covered an extensive portfolio of products, and once again offered the opportunity to focus on different sectors, whether it wasor pharmaceutical brands. But it also opened my eyes to the rest of the world.

“It was my first trip to India, China, Latin America, and really seeing the world outside of the US. It was a really powerful time in my life; I was so taken by being a global citizen and learning about different cultures, and understanding different nuances. I truly learned why it’s so important to meet people from other places – it really opened my mind.”

READ MORE: Chief growth officer is just a symbolic role, says J&J CMO

A “whirlwind” of a job

AOL, global head of strategic partnerships (2014-2015)

“Bob Lord, who is one of my mentors, was one of the senior execs at AOL at the time. They needed a head of strategic partnerships to build their audiences and content. So I decided to join. It was a whirlwind. I learned a lot about the platform business and building distribution.

“Then they sold to Verizon, and I joined Publicis. AOL really sparked my interest in taking a deeper dive into data and technology.

“I’ve been very lucky to have some influential people in my career who have helped me every step of the way.

“Building relationships should be a part of everyone’s foundation to their career. It’s very hard to be entirely self aware without input from people you trust and who will be honest with you. I think it’s incredibly important to stay connected and stay open to people’s feedback. At Visa I mentor an employee in every region.”

Blazing new trails

Visa, head of global marketing platforms (2016 – present)

“There is so much purpose to a lot of what we do. Visa leverages its tech and financial expertise to open markets, and works with governments to bring access to people that were [without communications access or bank accounts].

“It gives them the opportunity to learn more about their own financial wellbeing and be entrepreneurial. We are seeing, even in emerging markets where they’ve leapfrogged [desktop computers] by going straight to mobile, the ability to transact on mobile phone has really changed the game for so many people. Visa is simply blazing new trails in terms of what the future of payments will look like.”

Kim Kadlec: CV

Media director
Backer Spielvogel Bates

Various agency roles

Senior vice-president
Universal McCann

Vice-president, sales and marketing
Fox Entertainment Group

Vice-president, branded entertainment
NBC Universal

Worldwide vice-president, global marketing group
Johnson & Johnson

Global head of strategic partnerships

Publicis Groupe

Head of global marketing platforms



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  1. Pete Austin 27 Sep 2017

    Pointy Haired Boss – “I like to think of myself as a Swiss army knife”
    Dilbert – “That’s something we agree on”
    Dilbert – “You’re definitely a multi-tool”

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