Kite Rises at MediaVest
Agency Promotes ‘Culture of Insights’
Jim Kite joined MediaVest two years ago to help instill a culture of insights at the agency.
Last month he was promoted to president of connections research and analytics, which would suggest his mission is on track.
Mr. Kite said the primary role of research has been changing from analyzing ratings to studying the consumer. “By creating this culture of inquisitiveness about consumers, you start that kind of cultural change where our work becomes less the numbers and flow charts and more and more of what is the best communication plan to reach this consumer when this consumer will be most receptive and pay most attention to it,” he said.
That culture has to extend beyond the people charged with doing the research, Mr. Kite said.
To accomplish something innovative, there must be a mixture of good insights, a strong hypothesis and people to carry it through.
“I love research. The people who work in teams here really enjoy what they’re doing. But research which is not activated is pretty pointless. And there’s a lot of good research which is done all the time which never gets off the bookshelf. And really what we’re big on here is the whole area of research in action,” he said.
One of Mr. Kite’s tasks when he arrived at MediaVest in 2005 was to create a level of research consistency across MediaVest’s client groups. Previously, most of the best research was done within the account groups working on the agency’s biggest clients. “It was like having five separate research departments,” he said. “Each client group was going about it in their own separate way.”
To make research consistent, Mr. Kite has created a board of research directors, an electronic newsletter with updates on consumer insights, a research advocates group and a research festival at the agency.
“That doesn’t mean that we share everything that we have amongst our clients, because a lot of it is proprietary, particularly in the sphere of data,” Mr. Kite pointed out. “But making sure we get everyone to the highest level, we set this goal through a board of all our research directors. What we call it is ‘beyond compare,’ and we aim to be beyond compare.”
He’s also in charge of consumer context planning at the agency, a discipline that looks at how media resonate with consumers and when consumers are most receptive to messages.
Mr. Kite believes a good part of the future of the communications business will be driven by digital and data analytics.
“There is so much data now being collected on what consumers are exposed to in terms of all media,” Mr. Kite said. “Preparing us for the future is taking all these disparate pieces of data and plugging them into systems and approaches. Then we can say this is what we activated.”
He called that the exciting part of doing research now.
“Yes, we still have to measure eyeballs, and yes, we still have to be involved in should it be live-plus-three or live-plus-four in terms of commercial ratings. You can’t walk away from that because that’s needed for trading,” he said. “But the data is going to be allowing us to see what’s the outcome of what the plan delivered And I think the data and digital is going to help us all, not just media agencies but the whole communications industry, get back in to that accountability and really move more in the front side of our clients.”
Originally from Birmingham, England, Mr. Kite studied at the University of London. He loved history, particularly that of the military, thanks to his father and grandfather, who survived World War I. (Mr. Kite and his father take annual trips together to famous battle sites. Recently they’ve been to Normandy, Gettysburg and Bastogne, and this year they’re going to Waterloo.)
In college, Mr. Kite thought about going into law or politics, “but I had this interest in asking people questions and finding things out and telling stories.” He started doing research for a small TV station in London, then moved to BSkyB when it was a startup.
He helped figure out how to create a currency for measuring viewership and selling ads for the satellite service. “That cemented my interest in research,” he said, but he moved onto the agency side because he found television sales research a bit too repetitive.
He worked for Universal McCann in London. McCann transferred him to the U.S. in 2003, and top executives from Starcom MediaVest Group pounced: Starcom MediaVest Group/the Americas CEO Laura Desmond and Executive VP and Global Research Director Kate Sirkin plied him with drink and conversation and convinced him that MediaVest was hot.
Mr. Kite is married with three daughters whose names have an international flavor. Eight-year-old Lily has a British name, 6-year-old Matilda has an Australian name (because that’s where her mom’s from) and 2-year-old Eva was born in America.
Mr. Kite is a cricket fan, which he said is difficult to follow in the U.S. He’s looking forward to David Beckham’s first game in New Jersey with Major League Soccer.
Who knew: Every time he eats a sausage, Mr. Kite is reminded that his dad, an engineer, designed the machine that automatically stuffs the meat into the casings and ties them off. The family didn’t see any money from the invention. “He was a junior draftsman at an engineering company and it was one of the first things he did,” Mr. Kite said. “He was just happy for the job, and not thinking about the patent for it.”
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