Abbey Klaassen on journalism, marketing and the ever-changing communications industry

by Lauren Dana

March 6, 2018

Klaassen, CMO of 360i, shared insights on digital marketing and her career

A photo of Abbey Klaassen

By any measure, Abbey Klaassen is a success. The former Advertising Age reporter found her passion working with and promoting new products and brands, and is now the chief marketing officer (CMO) at 360i, a digital marketing agency in New York City.

As CMO, Klaassen is responsible for overseeing the agency’s marketing, public relations and business development initiatives, and is also in charge of the company’s new Amazon Marketing program, which helps brands grow across the globe.

On Feb. 21, Klaassen visited the Newhouse School and shared insights on 360i’s goals and initiatives, the changing digital field and how to stand out in the industry.

Student reporter Lauren Dana sat down with Klassen to get her take on the changing advertising and marketing industries, how digital media affects marketing, and how her company is adapting with the times.

Tell me a bit about your journalism experience before you started at 360i.

I started in journalism, and ended up at Advertising Age, a trade publication that covers the advertising and marketing industry. I landed there in 2005 and covered out-of-home ads [advertising that reaches consumers when they’re not at home—such as billboards and transit ads], radio and TV.

What made you switch from journalism to marketing?

Being at Advertising Age, I had a lot of exposure to great agencies and great work. I got to see up close the challenges that marketers were facing and I thought that it seemed like a really fun challenge. When I was thinking about leaving journalism, I had to think through how I would talk about what I’m good at as a journalist in the context of another field. It’s not about writing and reporting stories; it’s about being intellectually curious and answering questions that get people thinking.

What have been some of your biggest challenges since you made the switch from journalism to marketing?

Sometimes, journalists tend to have a low opinion of… advertising, but I was really excited to work with a group of intellectually curious people.

As far as surprising, advertising is harder than it looks. There’s so much more that goes into a campaign than you as a consumer may imagine.

What inspires you to stay motivated and successful at work?

One of the things that I love about advertising today is that there’s so much change. 360i is unique in that it looks a little different every year—it’s always changing. That is really motivating, because I don’t want to do the exact same thing every day.

Would you say that working in journalism gave you an upper hand when you switched to marketing?

Covering advertising before going into it gave me a perspective on each element of the ecosystem. For example, I really understood what kept clients up at night and the complaints they had at their agency partners. I [also] understood how agencies thought, and some of their challenges. 

The industry is changing so quickly, as digital media platforms are changing. How has this impacted your career?

When I was in journalism, we went from publishing every week to a reduced frequency, and built up our web and mobile presence. In advertising, we like to talk about how marketing fundamentals have not gone away, but we have to re-think some of them. We live in an era where there is more data about people that you can use to be more personal and relevant. Part of our role as an agency is to make sure our clients are doing that in responsible ways that are beneficial to consumers.

What has been your favorite part of your job so far?

It was pretty cool this week when we won two big industry awards—the Advertising Age A-List and the Ad Week Breakthrough Media Agency of the Year--so that was a really fun week.

Which do you prefer: business journalism or marketing?

I am so happy with what I’m doing right now; I have no regrets. I loved being a journalist and it set me up really well for my job today.

Could you describe a typical day at work?

I usually get in around 8:30-8:45. Usually, I’ll spend about an hour thinking through new client opportunities, talking on the phone with potential clients, seeing how we may be able to help. I’ll spend a couple hours focusing on marketing, and a fair chunk of the day advising a team working on a pitch, giving feedback or sometimes leading a pitch.

What advice do you have for people who want to enter the field?

Don’t pigeonhole yourself into a specific role, title, or job description. When you’re in an entry-level job, if you’re the person who works hard, is curious and says “yes” to opportunities, you can get a lot of experience in a lot of different areas. 

Lauren Dana is a junior magazine major at the Newhouse School.