UM’s Kathy Doyle on the Challenges Agencies Face Today

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Kathy Doyle, Executive Vice President, Managing Partner of Universal McCann, had an unlikely path to a career in advertising. Having switched her college major from business to education and finding that there were no teaching jobs upon graduation, she began tending bar at a TGI Fridays. Luckily this bar was located between two advertising agencies where Kathy came into contact with agency executives. One, Jack Ryan from Burnett, would from time to time offer entry level opportunities to restaurant employees. Kathy soon found herself in the accounting department at Burnett. “It was a weird career path to advertising but a happy one,” she recalls. My interview with her follows.

(Editor’s Note: Kathy Doyle will be inducted into the IRTS Foundation Hall of Mentorship on November 15 at the Pierre Hotel. While there are many awards in our industry that simply salute outstanding achievement, this award celebrates exceptional leaders who -- above and beyond -- have also been extraordinary mentors. is pleased to share Kathy's insights and perspectives. For information on the IRTS dinner, also honoring NBCU's Linda Yaccarino, Pepsico's Seth Kaufman, and Discovery Communications' Henry Schleiff, visit

Charlene Weisler: How has your work evolved over the years and how has advertising evolved since you first started?

Kathy Doyle: For me personally, I strategically changed jobs and evolved as the company evolved. I have held various leadership iterations. I started as a buyer then entered client services. The digital age has been a boon in my career and continues to change the industry. Those in the linear sector of advertising are trying to figure out how the future will unfold from here. To me it is fun to see how things are happening. No two days are the same. I love that.

Charlene: What are the challenges for an agency today?

Kathy:  Evolution. Technology and platforms evolve daily.  Fortunately, UM has always been at the forefront of what is happening in the industry, so this is not a new situation for us. We change and adapt and reinvent ourselves. We anticipate what is coming and prepare for it as best as we can.

Charlene: How has data changed the way the agency world works?

Kathy: It has definitely changed our business. We have proprietary data tools to help inform our local buys by informing and targeting viewing habits. Sometimes we depend on client data that we then apply to our decision making, especially in TV. It has become a world where we are using and relying on data-driven decision making.

Charlene: Your agency uses Nielsen exclusively. Is there a role for STB data?

Kathy: I definitely think that there is a role. But I don’t know what it looks like and there are privacy concerns. We will all have to figure it out.

Charlene: Looking ahead, where do you see the media industry five years from now?

Kathy:  I wish I knew! It is all based on the rate of change -- is it five years or two years? UM is one of the only agencies that has already switched to impression-based buying for local TV and radio to be used as the currency. The intent was to find a more stable mechanism for local viewing and listening behavior. Additionally, we think it sets us up nicely for the transition to becoming local audio and video buyers as opposed to radio and TV. We are confident that the industry will eventually do the same. 

Charlene: How do achieve work/life balance?

Kathy: I come from a long line of women who worked outside the home so I have always seen work/life balance in action. My mother, my grandmother and even my great grandmother worked outside the home. I always felt that working and taking pride in my work makes me a happier person, which in turn makes me a better mother. It inspires me to achieve better balance and I am a happier person at home. Given my family’s history of working women, I suppose I learned from example. I am not exactly sure how to strike the exact balance, but I find that it works itself out.

Charlene: What advice can you give a student today who is seeking a career in media?

Kathy: Don’t be shy about making connections with people, even if it is through social media like LinkedIn. If someone contacted me that way, I would try to make time to talk. It may not work with everybody or with every person you try to connect with, but it can be a great way to network and expand your connections.

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