Kristin Bloomquist: Harnessing the Power of Relationships

Ad agency exec sees it help break the glass ceiling

By Lauren Caggiano

To Kristin Bloomquist, general manager of Cramer-Krasselt’s Phoenix office, an advertising career is all about creating relationships. “I got into the work of advertising because I was fascinated by the creativity of it,” she says. “I also loved the business part of it … [the ability] to partner with clients to grow their business.” Examples across a multitude of clients include brand positioning work, helping to craft both marketing and media strategies, and thinking both about the short as well as the long term.

Cramer-Krasselt is the second-largest independent advertising agency in the country, run as a four-office network. Bloomquist, with more than two years under her belt as the first female general manager in C-K’s Phoenix office since it opened three decades ago, oversees all aspects of the office — from employees to client relationships to finances and operations. “I stay actively involved in all of our clients’ businesses,” says Bloomquist. “During the course of a day, I may be in meetings on two or three different clients, counsel someone on a challenge or opportunity, be working on a presentation or researching new business opportunities. No two days are ever alike!” Employing an overarching approach to managing a firm, she’s been part of account management, human resources, operations and more, which has given her a “360 view” of how business operations and organizations work.

Bloomquist believes success is about relationship-building — both internal and external. In a client setting, she points to Truly Nolen Pest Control as an example where building relationships is particularly important. “Like any good friendship, our communications needed to build a foundation of trust in Truly Nolen as an exceptional pest control provider that treats customers right,” she says.

In the workplace, relationship-building means “bringing people together of all strengths, skills and personalities,” and she values collective wins over personal ones. “What we do is truly a team effort and when we have a win, whether that win is doing work that makes an impact on our client’s business or the actual winning of a piece of new business, it feels great,” she says. A case in point is the agency’s work with existing client Arizona Science Center to launch a new campaign. Through this project, C-K is putting its collective talents to work to bring science to the forefront of people’s lives.

Comfortable with all niches, Bloomquist has worked with a host of retail-focused companies over the course of her career, including Atari, DIRECTTV, Expedia.com and Clairol. “[These experiences] have been a great opportunity to marry marketing with retail. The retail mindset has been the thrust of my career,” she says, sharing that the scope of brands and the breadth of product categories have been just as rewarding as the creativity. She started her career, fresh out of college, at DDB in New York City. After getting her feet wet, she moved up the corporate ladder to agencies like JWT Jordan, McGrath Case & Taylor (now Arnold). Before joining C-K in 2009, her last agency stint was with Deutsch, where she was hired by industry leader Donny Deutsch to open Deutsch LA.

Well aware of the advertising business’s male-dominated past, Bloomquist has seen the field become more accessible even in the 30 years since she entered it. “This is a business that has been one of the first to open up the glass ceiling. I’ve been fortunate to have great role models. You don’t need to be male to succeed,” she says.

Her approach to success is one of constant improvement: “Bring passion and brainpower to the room every day. Stay ahead of the business by looking at trends both from a marketing/advertising standpoint, but also from a business point of view. Live and work with integrity.”

Bloomquist is eager to pass on lessons like these to others. She gives back to up-and-coming women in the business through internships in the firm that encourage hands-on roles in projects, telling them, “Work hard, show your passion and don’t be afraid. [Ask yourself], ‘How can I make an impact today?’ and don’t be shy.” This mentoring extends relationship-building well beyond that between vendor and client, Bloomquist observes, noting it is equally important in one’s career development. “Mentors can help young people attain their full potential. It takes a visionary to recognize the talent and not stop you because of your gender and let you shine,” she says.


On the Record 

  • Cramer-Krasselt offices: Chicago, Milwaukee, New York City and Phoenix
  • Number of C-K employees: 551 agency-wide; 75 in the Phoenix office
  • Services C-K offers: Account strategy, account management, creative, media digital and public relations
  • Notable C-K clients: SRP, MGM Grand, Valley Toyota Dealers, Truly Nolen, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Arizona Science Center, Grand Canyon University
  • C-K’s 2011 billing: $1,017 million total C-K; $110 million Phoenix office
  • Giving back to the community: Bloomquist holds board member positions at the Walter Cronkite School, The Phoenix Symphony Board of Overseers and Fresh Start; chairman of the new business committee of the American Association of Advertising Agencies — Western Region

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