Kellie Grutko likes technology but is far from an early adopter. “I’m
constantly asking for help about how to do things on my iPad,” says
Grutko, who as vice president of marketing at Comcast Spotlight is
the highest-ranking woman at Comcast’s local ad-sales unit. “But I
like to educate myself. It’s a work in progress, probably forever as
technology keeps changing.”
Grutko, 44, knows that plenty of Comcast clients are
in the same position, struggling to keep up with fastchanging
times. Thus, she must ensure her department
remains ahead of the curve.
This past year, Comcast Spotlight “led the charge” by
introducing the I-Plus platform to get advertisers to focus
on cross-platform solutions. Grutko also oversaw the
creation of the futuristic Eye-con character as a visualization
of the plan.
Comcast Spotlight also introduced an iPad app aimed
at keeping its clients informed, plus e-marketing campaigns
and short “Take Five” webcasts demonstrating
how to integrate on-air and online advertising.
“We need innovations and we need to grow,” Grutko
says. “We need to reach people in diff erent ways to stay
Hank Oster, corporate senior vice president for Comcast
Spotlight, says the very fact that Grutko is not a
techie, yet helmed all these projects, shows how strong
she is as a strategic and creative thinker.
“She’s a very keen marketer with great insights about
trends and how to push the brand forward,” he says. “And
she’s not afraid of taking chances.”
Grutko knew by the time she was a student at Penn
State University that she wanted a career in advertising.
An internship in cable advertising at a company called
Metrobase hinted at what her future held in store, though
after college, her path veered in a different direction: She
sold ads for Philadelphia magazine. “It was a good first
job and led to other opportunities,” she recalls.
One early client was the mammoth King of Prussia
(Pa.) Mall, which eventually hired her away for their marketing
department. Later she became director of marketing
at a smaller mall in Pottstown, Pa.
But retail “wasn’t a passion for me,” Grutko says, “and
I got tired of practically sleeping at the mall during the
holidays and going four months without a single day off .”
This was back in olden times, in the mid-1990s, so
Grutko looked in a newspaper classifi ed section for a job.
“I know, that sounds so old-fashioned,” she laughs. “But
I found a job in cable that way.”
Though it was a backward career move, from mall
director of marketing to promotions coordinator at rep
firm Cable AdNet, “I knew I had to take a step down to
work my way back up.”
It also meant moving into the Philadelphia market.
And because few people were doing marketing for ad
sales then, Grutko got to carve her own trail. Eventually
she worked her way up to director of marketing and
helped rebrand the company as Radius Communications,
later sold to Comcast.
“Comcast wasn’t the huge company it is today, but it
had 8 million subscribers and was a national company,”
she says. “Th ere was a little bit of a culture shift. And
there was a real transition for me when they moved me to
the corporate offi ce and, instead of having only one market,
I had the whole country to work with. That’s when the
cool factor came into play.”
Now she works in New York, though she still commutes
from Pennsylvania. “My one regret is that I don’t take
more advantage” of New York, she says. After work, she
heads straight home, where she works out and has both
a husband and a dog to attend to. (“Th e dog is probably
easier,” she jokes.)
Another big transition came about five years ago, when
she became vice president. “Th at transition is the hardest,
because Kellie is so much of a doer and she had to
start creating opportunities for others to do and challenge
them to do it,” says Vicki Lins, a former Comcast
Spotlight senior vice president of marketing, who is now
chief marketing officer at Canoe Ventures.
“She is the consummate team player but she has grown
as a leader, shifting from a contributing member to the
driving member of the team,” Lins says.
ATTENTION TO DETAIL
A detail-oriented person, she found it hard to give up a
direct sales role. “But I enjoy the strategy and looking at
the big picture, and I have a wonderful staff to check off
the daily items,” she says.
She built her team with a specific culture in mind. “I
want people who can get along and collaborate so the
ideas spring from that,” Grutko says. When hiring or promoting
she looks for a positive attitude as much as a specific skill set. “There’s nothing worse than someone who
doesn’t play well with others,” she explains. “You have to
check your ego at the door here.”
Grutko makes sure to use a soft sell with new technologies,
whether video on demand or new online
extensions. The iPad app was designed to be entertaining,
“but also educational and useful,” she says. “I don’t
want people to just sit and play a game and never come
back. I want buyers and planners to look at this on the
train and learn about our markets and networks in an
Hometown: Erie, Pa., and Yardley, Pa.
Current job: VP, marketing,
First job: Marketing at the King of
Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania
Favorite TV shows:The Closer,
Parenthood, Law & Order: SVU
Downtime: Working out at the gym
High praise: “I think Kellie had her
greatest year ever in 2011 on a whole
host of fronts, and her work on the
I-Plus iPad app was breathtaking
to watch!” — Comcast Spotlight
president Charlie Thurston