The media industry has been no stranger to change and innovation in the past several decades.
Within that time, advertising alumnus Mark Ford, ’79, has been a strategic force within Time Inc., leading the company in its transformation from a magazine company to a multimedia company.
He now serves as executive vice president and senior strategic sales advisor of Time Inc., and in his 32-year career with the company, he’s driven innovation and revenue for some of the world’s largest media brands.
“It all starts with a long-term vision,” Ford said, “which often leads to a change in overall strategy. You must constantly adapt your business model based on the changing consumer behavior.”
This mantra guided Ford as he led several divisions of Time Inc., including serving as chief revenue officer and running the news group (TIME, Fortune and Money), the sports group (including Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine) and Time4Media (a group of enthusiast brands, magazines and experiential marketing).
When leading the sports group and Time4Media, Ford’s strategy involved distributing content through brands and multiple platforms, deliver- ing not only content but products and services to passionate customers.
“I always felt we should deliver brands and content to consumers when they want it, how they want it and on whatever device or platform in which they want to consume it,” he said.
“Why do you have to deliver that message only through a magazine? Why be limited to print, when consumers are consuming through social media channels, mobile and video?”
One of the many success stories was the acquisition of Golf.com in 2004. The acquisition made Time Inc. the category leader in golf both with consumers and advertisers.
“Golf.com was a big game-changer,” Ford said. “Suddenly, Golf Digest, our number one competitor was just a magazine, and Golf Magazine had begun its quest to become a multi platform brand.”
A more recent success story is the Foundry, Time Inc.’s native studio that produces branded content for advertising partners. The Foundry leverages Time Inc.’s first party data, consumer knowledge and editorial know-how to target the right customers with the right message.
Through it all, Ford has believed in the importance of leadership through change and building the right team.
“Strategy is not enough; you need the right talent,” Ford said. “Once you have the right strategy in place, you need the best talent to execute. I always believe in a mix of unlocking talent with existing staff by inspiring (them) with new strategies, and blending in new talent who bring fresh ideas and expertise.”
Ford looks back fondly on his time at Kent State. He said one experience especially stands out: He worked with a team of advertising and
business majors to put together a campaign for Wella Balsam shampoo as part of the American Advertising Federation’s national competition. While they didn’t win, they competed in the national finals in Washington, D.C., which led to many team members’ first post-grad work opportunities.
“The competition gave me the self-assurance I needed to cold call the CEO of J. Walter Thompson, which led to my first job in the media department of J. Walter Thompson,” Ford said. “... Through being with professionals at that level, presenting to them and networking at the conference, it was a real-world opportunity which boosted my confidence and gave me the grit to start knocking on doors. Kent State and J. Walter Thompson were a launching pad on a long-standing career.”