More Than Media in Hanrahan’s World

May 20, 2009  •  Post A Comment

Getting promoted to VP at Starcom isn’t the only big change in Magen Hanrahan’s life lately.
She also recently got engaged, and that’s been a focal point for her for the last few weeks. Her fiancé isn’t in advertising or media and that’s just fine with her, because she has other relatives in the business.
“I come from a media family, so there’s enough advertising conversation at the dinner table,” Ms. Hanrahan says.
Her father worked at Leo Burnett before Starcom was formed, leaving to work at Coca-Cola. He’s now semi-retired, consulting and putting out a newsletter.
Her younger sister works at MediaVest in New York, despite having vowed never to spend her life sitting on her butt all day working on Excel spreadsheets the way Magen does.
For Ms. Hanrahan, the media business always sounded pretty exciting. Growing up, she would get to do cool things because of what her dad did for a living. At home growing up in the Chicago suburb of Flossmoor, he would quiz her and her siblings as a way to explain his job to them.
He would ask them, “‘Why do you think this ad is on TV right now?’ or ‘Why do you think this ad is in this magazine? Who do you think they’re trying to get to grow their product?’” Ms. Hanrahan recalls. “As I grew up, I really liked that puzzle.”
When it was time to go to college at the University of Indiana, she was deciding whether to be a theater major or a business major.
“I’m either going to wait on tables for the rest of my life, or I’m going to eat at nice restaurants and have people wait on me,” she says. “So I chose the business school route, but I knew pretty early, on based on the probing questions that my dad had posed, that it seemed like a really interesting career path.”
Ms. Hanrahan says her father didn’t help get her a job at Starcom. She went through the normal interview process. Since she’s been there, however, she has run into people who worked with her father.
Once while on the way to the airport for an early flight to New York for a new business presentation with Starcom President for activation Chris Boothe, he told her he’d been to her house when she was 11 or 12 years old. He said her parents invited some of her dad’s co-workers over for Easter dinner. While they were there, little Magen and her two younger sisters put on a song-and-dance show for the group.
That story was a bit embarrassing, but overall, “It’s been really rewarding to hear the really nice things that people have said” about her father.
Ms. Hanrahan spent enough time working on the U.S. Army account that her speech is filled with military terms. Now she oversees three accounts: U.S. Cellular, PetSmart and Exelon.
While her clients’ businesses are very different, she says they do have some things in common: They all want to tell consumers that they’re different and explain why consumers should switch to their product.
Working on U.S. Cellular has pushed Ms. Hanrahan to focus more on local media.
In fact, she’s now part of an agency group studying its approach to gathering local market consumer insights and developing strategies specific to different cities or counties, and then executing that from a buying standpoint.
Starcom recently helped U.S. Cellular with an international call day in Chicago. The company invites people to come to its store to call friends and family in other countries. While it’s not traditional media, the effort reinforces U.S. Cellular’s “Believe in Something Better” slogan.
“We’re trying to make sure that the customers truly understand what their slogan means, ‘Believe in Something Better,’ that U.S. Cellular is not just going to treat you like a number, that you are not just a friend but a family member,” she says.
It’s unlikely that anything Ms. Hanrahan encounters at work will faze her fiancé, who works in Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management helping to plan for catastrophes. Not that she experiences many catastrophes at work.
“I don’t have too many angry clients. I’ve been very lucky. With the clients I have now, I don’t have those nights when I go home and say to myself, ‘What were they thinking?’” she says.
When away from work, Ms. Hanrahan enjoys entertaining. She’s also active in volunteer work and has become a key player in the media agency’s community outreach programs.
“I’ve been lucky that my volunteer work outside the company has translated into a volunteer program inside the company,” she says.
Among the agency’s programs is traditional pro bono work for Chicago’s bid to get the 2016 Olympics.
Ms. Hanrahan also launched a program called “Instant Karma,” which allows people to sign up at the last minute to spend time with kids who are part of the Off the Street Club.
Other efforts include having glitter and glue available in conference rooms so people can make cards for senior citizens, donating prom dresses to the Dreams Delivered program and providing business attire to the Chicago Child Welfare Society to help parents dress to find jobs.
The agency also collected 250 backpacks for the Boys and Girls Club of Chicago in 2008. This year’s collection is on a similar pace, she says.
Ms. Hanrahan says Starcom recently changed its company policy to give employees two days off each year to volunteer. She says the agency maintains a database of nonprofit groups and the Starcom people who work with them.
That means that, for example, “Instead of showing up to a meeting not knowing anybody, you can call Magen Hanrahan and she’ll go with you or give you details on the organization.”
Who knew?: Ms. Hanrahan says she often gets asked why her first name is spelled funny. “I’m named after my grandmothers,” she explains. Her dad’s mother was Mabel—hence the Ma—and the Gen comes from her mom’s mom, Geneva. “So they kind of squished them together, she says. “Once in a while, someone will tell me my name is misspelled in the e-mail system. No, it’s not. I’m just a little different.”


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