Eileen Kiernan, EVP, Global President, J3 Named Media All-Star by AdWeek
To say that Eileen Kiernan took over J3 at a turbulent time would easily be considered an understatement.
Taking the reins of UM’s dedicated media unit for Johnson & Johnson in January of last year, Kiernan immediately faced an uphill battle. Seven months earlier, J&J took its $1 billion North American buying account to another agency—Omnicom’s OMD—leaving J3 in the awkward position of facing an account review in just about every other major global market. “It kind of took us by surprise when it happened,” says Kiernan on losing the North American buying account.
But before 2015 came to an end, Kiernan led that same account right back to J3, even though it wasn’t even up for review.
“Our experience—not just having lost the buying, but working without the buying as an integral part of our integrated offering—felt clunky,” explains Kiernan of those bad old days, noting that J3 made the case to J&J that having a two-agency model in such a fast-paced market wasn’t the ideal setup for the brand. “It just didn’t feel that we were strategically doing the right thing for J&J by not having a one-solution proposition.”
It feels right to the client now, says Alison Lewis, J&J’s global CMO. “Eileen brings together what I would say are perfect leadership qualities,” notes Lewis. “She’s courageous, trustworthy, humble, relentless and never takes no for an answer.”
It’s amazing that Kiernan was able to find time. After all, she spent eight months last year traveling around the world, gobbling up an additional $1.6 billion in J&J’s business—adding 55 new markets while retaining 22. Daryl Lee, UM’s global CEO (and Adweek’s Media All-Stars Executive of the Year), is, for one, no longer surprised by the extent of Kiernan’s efforts. “She is an amazing blend of strategic vision and operational commitment,” he says. “It’s so rare to find someone that has those things.”
Not bad for someone who’s only been in the agency world for five years. Kiernan’s 18 years on the other side of the aisle, in marketing for media companies including Time Inc. (where she worked on Health magazine) and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia has given her a fuller and broader picture of the ad world.