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Kittridge Hopes to Spark New Business

Apr 2, 2008  •  Post A Comment

In the agency world, landing new business can get a little hairy. But that’s not a worry for Barbara Kittridge.
The former L’Oreal executive, who recently joined Spark Communications, still has friends at the company who can get her all the haircare products she needs.
As managing director at Spark, Ms. Kittridge will help manage operations and oversee a client roster that includes the American Medical Association, NBC Universal and Virgin Mobile.
But Ms. Kittridge puts new business near the top of her list of reasons to return to the agency business from the client side.
“I really missed the pace and pulse of new business development,” she said. “There’s a very satisfying aspect to knowing that you can have an impact on bringing in new revenue.”
As a client, Ms. Kittridge saw many new-business presentations from the other side of the table.
“I do think that media agencies have gotten a lot savvier about putting together very compelling case studies that show the impact they’ve had on client business,” she said. “I think part of that’s the overall shift, particularly in digital where it’s so much more measurable.”
Clients are under great pressure to deliver earnings, and they want their media, and their media buying, done for as low a cost as possible. But Ms. Kittridge believes many clients “in the end respond to great ideas that really engage with their customers. If you’re not able to deliver both sides—the efficiencies along with the concepts that really have a human connection to your individual customers—they see there will be a weakness.”
Ms. Kittridge also enjoys helping to mentor and train the next generation in the agency business.
Born and raised in Chicago, Ms. Kittridge always knew she wanted to be in business. After doing her undergraduate work at Northwestern and getting an MBA in marketing and international business at Loyola, she landed her first job with KnowledgeWorks, doing corporate research reports, which turned out to be good preparation for the research done in the media business.
After that, she moved to the media department of Leo Burnett, which would become Starcom. In addition to working in Chicago, she took stints in Budapest, Warsaw and Hong Kong.
She left the agency business to get into the mobile communications industry, and she decided the industry was further advanced abroad.
“I knew the U.S. would be behind the times, in terms of penetration, usage, new data services,” she said. “I thought it would become as big as the Internet in terms of offering another platform for communications, and I wanted to understand from the inside what the technology was.”
She spent three years in Europe with T-Mobile and Vodaphone. That, she said, was good experience for Spark, formerly Starlink and a sister agency to Starcom, which has clients that are heavily invested in digital media.
When Ms. Kittridge was set to come back to the States, a friend who used to work at Starcom pointed her to the L’Oreal job.
“It seemed like a great opportunity,” she said. “We pushed the envelope and helped them get a handle on how they were going to push forward in the digital space.”
Still in the U.K. is Ms. Kittridge’s boyfriend.
“Eventually he’ll come here,” she said, adding that he loves Chicago, except for the winter.
“He had never seen snow until I brought him to Chicago,” she said. “He said, ‘You know, polar bears live like this.’”
In her free time Ms. Kittridge is training for the Chicago marathon.
“My nephew bet I couldn’t beat him. I figured I’d take on the challenge,’ she said. At 17 he’s got the younger legs, but she ran the marathon in 1997, “so mentally, I know I can do it.” She’s hoping to run a time of about 4 hours and 45 minutes.
One thing, Ms. Kittridge would really like is to learn to cook. She says her boyfriend asserts she’s the worst cook he’s ever known. One kitchen disaster: She tried to make chili, but left the wax wrap on the meat.
“I’d really like to know how to do a lovely beef Wellington,” she said. That’s one of her boyfriend’s favorite dishes. “Once I can deliver that on a platter, then I have proved myself.”
Who Knew: Ms. Kittridge’s early brush with celebrity came at Mother McCauley High School, where actress Jenny McCarthy was also a student. For a while, when she was better known as a Playboy model, she probably wasn’t “one of the alums the nuns wanted to claim,” says Ms. Kittridge, who ran into Ms. McCarthy and Jim Carrey at an industry event but didn’t bring up their Chicago connection. “I didn’t want to sound like one of those odd stalker people,” she said.

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