Back when the waters of media, which for decades had meant TV, radio, print and OOH, became murky with digital offerings, Kim Kadlec steered Johnson & Johnson - a big ship, indeed - through some very choppy seas. When there were icebergs dead ahead, she safely led the way to an integrated digital age. It may seem as if we're talking about a long-past era, but really it was only a few short years ago that Kadlec pulled the eighth largest advertiser in the U.S. out of the TV upfront and directed significant chunks of budget toward the then still-emerging digital media. Early on, she recognized the primacy of data in the new marketing landscape. She was also was an early proponent of including new engagement metrics in media deals.
Still, to hear Kadlec tell it, the medium is not the message; the consumer is, and the name of the game is "listening to and learning from your consumers," says Kadlec. "They are way ahead - and access content where, when and how they want. There is no line for them."
Like the man says, may you live in interesting times. The saying is referred to alternately as a proverb and an ancient Chinese curse, but whichever way you see it, it's undeniable that marketers do, in fact, live in interesting times. Kadlec, for one, seems to see it as a blessing. She says the aspect of her job that most excites her is "exploring new technologies, cultures and business models... at a global company during a time of unprecedented change, scale and speed." She finds it rewarding to work with "the people who are really creating the future... both internally here at Johnson & Johnson and externally at companies like Google."
One of the major challenges of dealing with an organization of the sheer scope and size of Johnson & Johnson is keeping a unified front and sharing knowledge gleaned in New Brunswick with the team in New Delhi. But in the digital age, problems can be solved with the very same technologies that disrupted the old models. The Insights Out platform Kadlec introduced at Johnson & Johnson is testament to that fact. Insights Out is a Web-based platform that transfers knowledge to over 6,000 Johnson & Johnson marketers across all sectors and around the globe. It includes not only a searchable database of the best work happening across Johnson & Johnson but also behind-the-scenes footage, interviews and topical Webcasts from the campuses of companies like Google and Microsoft.
Her diverse media background has given Kadlec something like the marketing equivalent of eyes in the back of her head. She worked on the agency side of things, leading buying and planning for clients Verizon and Coca-Cola Co. at Interpublic's um. Then she switched sides to broadcast and brokered cross-platform deals for News Corp's Fox. She left Fox to launch NBC Universal's branded content division. Then she joined J&J as its chief media officer and is now vice president of the worldwide marketing group.
Cross-training may have led Bo Jackson to play both baseball and football with mixed results, but it gave Kadlec the foresight to risk bold moves that made Johnson & Johnson an industry marketing leader when it could have easily become a dinosaur. Kadlec relied on her depth of knowledge and found her eclectic background crucial to success. "Understanding different perspectives and goals is critically important to inspiring a team of diverse thinkers, and to driving innovation at a large, highly-diversified company like Johnson & Johnson," Kadlec says.
And it's not just lip service. Among the groundbreaking initiatives she introduced to J&J is an externship program, an executive exchange between Johnson & Johnson and external partners. "The mission is to cross-pollinate talent, celebrate diversity of thought and culture, and ultimately build stronger partnerships," Kadlec says. The program began four years ago as a local corporate initiative with corporate partners in the New York and New Jersey offices and has since become an institutionalized part of J&J culture, expanding globally and extending to all sectors of the company's business.
Opening conversations with all the constituents in the marketing puzzle is key to staying ahead, says Kadlec. "The biggest challenge is incorporating the right partners early enough in the business planning cycle to allow that big ideas and campaigns include a fully integrated array of communication channels based on deep consumer insights." With a public increasingly intolerant of by-the-book marketing, those relationships and insights can lead to "creating marketing communications that engage and add value for our consumers instead of interrupting content or holding audiences captive." As usual, where some see crisis, Kadlec sees opportunity.