aX Profile: Kevin Kelly

Kevin at Work

Welcome to the AUDIENCEX team! Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I grew up in South Jersey which explains why I am a Philadelphia Eagles fanatic, and I was always into music and gadgets as a kid. In third grade when I was asked what I wanted to be with when I grew up, I said I wanted to be a television repairman. I always liked Gadgets and that was the most high tech thing in my house growing up. 

I went to school at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and graduated with a recording production degree. I was a recording engineer and drummer with a couple of touring rock bands, which gave me the opportunity to work with Madonna and some other cool musicians during that time. I also met and married the guitarist of one of those bands while I was in college and moved to NYC with her after graduating. 

When the Internet came along in the mid 90’s, I started Bigbuzz Marketing Group, where I started out with projects like making websites for some of the bands I worked with in the studio. I love the mix of technology and creativity that came with creating websites. We quickly moved into building web-apps, e-commerce, and CMS systems from scratch. Nearly 25 years after it’s inception Bigbuzz was a full service digital agency serving national brands from Hard Rock to Honeywell.

Now that BBMG and aX have merged, how has the transition impacted you?

It’s been a wonderful journey, and a perfect fit. Through the years, I have been approached about mergers and acquisitions, but this time it was the universe telling me to finally make the move. Bigbuzz was growing and we had just completed a SWOT analysis—AUDIENCEX filled all the gaps and answered the previously unanswered questions about how to utilize better tools, strengthen buying power, and expand resources in digital media for our clients. They also helped to build stronger infrastructure and a more defined career growth path for our collective team. The two companies had a strong symbiotic relationship where we could bring our experience and expertise in the full service AOR realm and contribute to the rapid growth goals of AX. 

It’s been a pleasure for me personally to be able to focus on what I do best and have the support of a company with a strong infrastructure with separate teams to manage HR and marketing, tasks with which I was previously caught in the weeds.

What does a day in the life of the Managing Director of Agency Services look like?

Great question, and that’s continuing to reveal itself week after week as I transition into my new role, after more than 2 decades of looking after everything in the agency. 

I love working with our accounts team to strengthen relationships with our clients and supplement the great work the team does day in and day out. I also love to get involved in the campaigns for particular accounts, especially Hard Rock where I can utilize my musical background to bring creativity to our AI conversation design for their REVERB Hotel Chain Chatbot and Alexa Voice experience.  I also spend a good part of my day focused on growing existing accounts, expanding my network, and generating net new business opportunities for the agency. I love to learn new things at work, so I make time to watch training videos and read news about the ever evolving ad tech world we live in.

How have you adjusted to working from home during the pandemic?

I love that it’s given all of us greater flexibility and work life balance. I don’t underestimate the impact that flexibility has on each employee’s life. The 2-3 hour commute benefitted no one, employee nor employer, and getting that time back benefits everyone. That said, I do miss the in-person comradery, and the accidental innovations and ideas that happen when people are in close proximity, but I know that part will return.

I like working from home. I have a dedicated work space, and I think that’s important. When we return to the office, I think it should happen with a very purposeful plan, meaning we will go back in because we want to accomplish specific tasks or projects together, not just because it’s a random Tuesday. The zoom world can be exhausting but I do love its efficiency. If I have 10 minutes free I can take a walk around the block with the dogs without feeling rushed—that kind of flexibility is priceless!

Outside the Office

What are your hobbies or activities that you look forward to doing on the weekends or after work?

I recently got back to my roots in music and was asked to play drums on the next release from my old band Fuzzbubble, now resurrected as Cult Stars From Mars. I’m also playing on, and producing my wife’s forthcoming children’s music album. I love triathlons (swim, bike, run) and have completed 2 ironman 70.3 races. I also love Movies. The time I spend watching a movie is the most completely disconnected I can get for a couple hours in one sitting. 

When I’m not working, playing, or swim-bike-running (lol), I like reading books (mostly non-fiction), learning about AI, and spending time with my wife, 3 kids and 2 dogs in Long Island. 

What’s the last show you marathoned, and what about it has you hooked?

Oddly, my wife and I completed season 4 of The Crown, and woke up to find that Prince Philp died the next morning. So sad, yet strange—we feel like we got close to the characters. 

We enjoy the mix of facts and fictional drama, and usually watch while googling events which has helped us learn so much.     

What are you listening to lately (podcasts, music, etc)? 

Musically I am all over the place. 90’s alt rock mixed with funk and soul:  Lenny Kravits, Stone Temple Pilots, Living Colour, Sheryl Crow, Prince,  JellyFish I could go on for days!

Same with podcasts, but I do listen a lot on the bike. I have a big ride tomorrow and I’ll probably listen to a combo of my “AI Book”, “Ted Radio Hour” and maybe Alec Baldwin’s “Here’s the Thing”. 

Tell us one or two fun facts about you.

  • I got knocked out cold in a boxing ring for charity.  
  • I’m an Irish-Italian Jew from NJ, and my father-in-law (Rabi Cy) a very liberal reform Rabbi, helped me convert.

Hypothetically Speaking

What are 3 things you think are going to change in the advertising industry in the next 3 years? Why?

  • A paradigm shift about what it means to be profiled and targeted. I am a firm believer in the symbiotic benefits for consumers and brands in being accurately targeted and have preached about this for years. I personally discover new useful bands and information all the time because of my profile, and I appreciate it. Ads are a fact of the world we live in. It pays for all the wonderful “free” stuff we use so why would I want to see ads for things irrelevant to me, when I can discover something new?  It will take time, but the ad industry needs to continue to build trust and consumers will begin to  embrace this idea as well.  
  • Voice is one of the  biggest opportunities for brands. It’s still in a nascent state, though Amazon and Google are finally figuring out how to monetize it. They’ve  gotten their devices in to a huge percentage of US households and it’s up to creative folks like us to shape how consumers will interact with their voice devices to bring value to both brand and consumer.   
  • AI will continue to shape our lives and the world of advertising. As data access ebbs and flows, we will lean more and more on AI for modeling that will reach people with the right info in the right place, at the right time.

What type of ad do you think you’ll be targeted with next? Why?

A Logic Recording Studio plug-in. I’ve become somewhat obsessed with rebuilding my physical studio full of vintage tube gear via virtual software gear.

What are you looking forward to most in the next 5 years?

So many things, like completely autonomous electric cars, but in the workplace, I am excited about the evolution of the work space. I think there are so many exciting things we can do with the hybrid workplace.  And personally I am looking forward to snow-birding between NY and someplace warm (maybe South Florida), as the last of our 3 kids will be graduating from hIgh school and heading off to college soon.