Kelly Wenzel is the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) for Centro, a firm that is on a mission to reinvent the media industry through programmatic solutions. Wenzel is also on a mission. In addition to helping advance Centro’s programmatic offerings, she is also deeply committed to mentoring and promoting women in the media technology field and in advancing work/life balance for working mothers. In short, she is making a difference both in how our industry works and in how we work in our industry. Her efforts have contributed to Centro’s reputation as the top place to work in advertising and media (according to both Fortune and Advertising Age).
In this inspiring interview, Wenzel talks about her career, the advance of programmatic, how she achieves life and work balance and how, as an industry, we can help the advancement and achievement of young talented women. She also offers some ideas as to how the media landscape will trend over the next few years.
Charlene Weisler: How has digital media changed since you first entered it in 2009?
Kelly Wenzel: Just a few years ago it was a RFP (request for proposal) game. RFPs rolled in and as a marketer you didn’t need to focus on lead generation -- everybody knew who you were. It was more about branding and exposure in the ad tech sector. Now it is much more about a holistic brand strategy, being very on-purpose with your brand and producing relevant, meaningful content that your customers want to consume. You still need to think about lead generation -- how I am going to distribute and promote that content -- but ad tech is now such a confusing and cluttered space that, as a marketer, we spend a lot more time on thought leadership, on education and on demystifying this space.
CW: I know that programmatic is part of your business. How do you define programmatic?
KW: There are people who think that programmatic is synonymous with real time bidding (RTB) -- buying inventory through an exchange based on an auction. That’s an older, slightly outdated definition. More folks are ascribing to the broader view which is programmatic is about automation -- anything that can be automated in the life cycle of a media campaign will be automated. By that definition, everything that Centro does is programmatic because every campaign runs through the Centro Platform; nothing is done manually. Unfortunately, too many people still believe that programmatic means that bidding on lower quality or remnant impressions from lower quality publishers or an exchange. That is also an outdated view but it takes time to change perceptions.
CW: I know that you are deeply involved in mentorship. Can you talk about that?
KW: Yes. I was blessed to have a mentor very early in my career. My first job out of college I was a copywriter at an agency and one of the creative directors took me under her wing. It made a world of difference for a green 22 year old, fresh out of school, trying to navigate her first corporate environment. It made such a tremendous impact on me that I resolved to do the same for others down the line when I was in a position to do so. I have made that my mission. It is something that I make a priority. I mentor women within Centro and I also mentor women via industry organizations like WomenAdvancing and Advertising Women of New York (AWNY).
CW: How can more women get involved? How can one get started?
KW: First, look around. There are probably women surrounding you in the workplace today that would benefit from a piece of wisdom, a boost, an affirmation. Start there. What Sheryl Sandberg wrote in Lean In was very true in that mentors find you. When I think of the women I mentor inside Centro, many of those relationships have been initiated by me. You see something as a leader, some spark or skill that you want to cultivate and nurture. Another fantastic benefit of Lean In is how proactive women now are about asking for mentorship or guidance.
CW: You are the mother of young children and also have a high powered job. How do you maintain work/life balance?
KW: I struggle with this. I have two young children -- twins who are five. I travel a lot right now, which takes a toll. Here are some of the best pieces advice I have gotten and implemented: Don’t think that it is ever a balance. It is more about work/life integration. Like a scale, it is going to go up and down and you have to be ready to be on that seesaw. There will be times when work is getting a little bit more of your attention and there will be times when your family is getting a little bit more of your attention. Just be conscious of riding that wave and managing it as best as you can. Don’t expect many times of perfect balance. I might get that for half an hour at a time!
The other thing that is helpful to me is purely mental. It is a mindset shift where I have a new relationship with my guilt. I was feeling guilt a lot about being away and the time I wasn’t spending with my children. Now, I try to just own my choices. If I am choosing to have a career, choosing to be a CMO at a thriving growing software company, well that is my choice. And with it comes compromise that I have to make on the home front. As soon as you own your choice, work is not a “have to” or a “must” or an “obligation” and that reframes everything. It’s a much more empowered way to move through the world.
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