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April 01, 2009

An Ad Man With the Heart of an Engineer

Catherine New
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This post is part of a special series celebrating the School’s Alumni Forever Week (March 30 through April 2).

Profile
Stephano Kim ’03
President and Chief Operating Officer, [x+1]

Tell us about your career path since getting your MBA.
When I came to business school I really wanted to know what I didn’t know. A lot of my colleagues came for the networking or certification or career change, but I went to figure out what I wanted to round out in my skill set. I have a background in venture capital and entrepreneurship, but I knew my professional experience was lacking something. After graduation, I joined AOL’s business strategy and development team and helped turn them into a portal- and ad-driven business. In July 2006 I joined [x+1], where I am the president and COO. Our mission is to use data to make online advertising more effective. We have Fortune 500 brands that power their advertising through us to make it more targeted and efficient. In a time with increased focus on ROI, our story has become powerful.

Looking back at your CBS experience, what was your aha! moment?
My core classes validated and formalized what I already knew, but Professor David Juran’s modeling and stats classes were key for me. I realized I should have been an engineer! The data and the numbers speak for themselves, and they are the foundation of what we do. Juran is now on our advisory board and he is helping us with new product development.

In your field, what business trend or idea are you watching this year?
In media and marketing, there are a couple of key trends. First, the agencies are embracing digital. It has been a buzzword for the past 10 years, but as CEOs demand more ROI, agencies and their respective clients are forced to take a harder look at which channels are performing. When you dissect a $1 billion ad spend and look at where the chunks go — online, print, broadcast — you see that it is hard to measure the effectiveness of a television ad campaign and that the reach of newspaper and other print is falling off. So now it is about finding pockets of performance that can deliver the reach of TV with new platforms like mobile, where you can measure the ROI. While overall ad spend will decline this year, performance based online advertising will grow as the marketing mix shifts away from less effective and less measurable marketing channels.

What advice do you have for MBA or prospective MBA students?
Take a hard look at your skill set and see where you can leverage those while figuring out what other skills you need to develop. The roles within media and marketing have traditionally required very specific personality traits but with recent trends, those roles now require more business savvy people with well rounded skill sets. People who haven’t considered careers in media and marketing should take another look because their skills will be more and more relevant.

Photo courtesy of Stephano Kim