Katie Klumper is impressive.
The BCIT Marketing alumna is the president of a major advertising firm, KBS, in New York city. At the age of 30, she was named to the Top 40 Under 40 list by Direct Marketing News. She is a mother of two small children, a role she has also been recognized for—she was named the Advertising Working Mother of the Year. She was given that honour by AWNY, an organization that also presented her with a Changing the Game Award. Katie is widely recognized for reimagining how KBS does business, and by extension, how her industry works.
Katie is 33 years old.
“The big thing that makes me passionate about this industry,” she says, “is that I’m able to help businesses. Advertising agencies have shifted—they’re acting more like consultants. We come from the outside see what’s different about the organization, things they probably can’t see, and help them succeed.”
KBS —Kirshenbaum, Bond, Senecal + Partners—is a global advertising agency. Among its clients are BMW, BMO, Seventh Generation, and Gold (Jay Z).
“You do a lot of really cool things [in this job],” she says. “You go on a lot of really cool trips. You get to do a lot of great, interesting work.”
She says she’s most proud of a Superbowl ad she did for the BMW i3, mostly because it’s a part of her job that people can see and understand.
“My family friends were like, ‘You made that? That’s so cool!’”
Not only did she oversee the launch of the commercial, KBS won a big award for it. The Effies are given out as an acknowledgment of efficacy in advertising. “So, not only was it a really cool spot,” says Katie, “we actually got an award for how transformative it was to their business and the results.”
Katie has found a career she’s very good at. She also happens to love it.
“I like it because it changes every single day. The industry’s changing every day. Clients and the types of problems we’re solving are changing every day. I like the evolution.”
When asked what’s difficult about running a marketing company, she pauses.
“A lot of that is just working with different people of different backgrounds. It’s funny – you study all these things – marketing and economics and business – and you realize at the end of the day, we’re all human beings and it’s all about supporting each other. I think the hardest part is continuing to adapt to different people, different personalities, to have the leadership to get everyone to the finish line.”
Katie credits BCIT with giving her the fundamental skills to communicate and succeed, for teaching her about teamwork and collaboration.
“I was better primed than anyone else who studied traditionally, just in a book and classroom. Understanding how to work with people, the teamwork, the collaboration, the presentations, all these things – the on-the-job type of skills – were really beneficial and gave me a leg up, and still continue to. People always ask, ‘How did you do it?’ I say, ‘That’s how I learned. I was educated on collaboration.’”
What’s more, if it wasn’t for a BCIT instructor, Katie wouldn’t be in marketing at all.
“I actually went to BCIT for Information Technology,” she admits. “One of the teachers said, “You’re crazy. Why are you in information technology. I want to move you into Marketing. Give it a shot and if it fails you can move back into the same place.’ So thank God for him.”
That instructor, Joe Freeburn, is still at BCIT. He remembers the conversation, and says her subsequent success has impacted him as well.
“Katie is one of the first students I ever taught,” he explains. “What I thought was a causal conversation had great impact on her. I have never forgotten that and always try to help students find the right career fit!”
“I saw in Katie a spark and a passion,” he adds. “She had a natural inclination for marketing.”
Her boss, the Global CEO of KBS, Guy Hayward, agrees.
“She is truly expert in her field of modern communications and high level client management,” says Hayward. “This combined with rigour, clarity and commitment means she is monumentally effective.”
Katie has some advice for current Marketing students.
“Be brave,” she says. “A lot of people think that there’s one path to success – that you have to make sure you move up the ranks and it’s always about the next step. It’s actually about the zig-zag.”
She points to her first job at Grey Worldwide, where she got to work on the Starbucks account. “It was a great account at a great agency,” she admits. “Then I went and worked at a small startup shop, which in theory could be a step back without the same client recognition.”
That move, however, exposed her to the business in new ways. It also led to the opportunity to move to New York.
Asked what she now looks for in resumes, she says it’s not about the grades, necessarily. It’s about life experience.
“I want people who are vibrant and energetic and passionate, who just want to get in and learn. So, we look at the extra-curriculars they do. What are different internships they’ve taken on? What are the extra things that they personally have an interest in? What are their different experiences? So, I would say, just try to consume as much life as possible, because [in marketing] you’re working with so many different clients and businesses that bringing that experience comes in more ways than just education.”
After a pause, she adds, “if you’re brave to take a different step and learn different things, you will succeed.”