Marla Skiko

Marla Skiko assumed her current position in January 2020, just as the pandemic was beginning to spread around the globe. At Ford, Marla leads digital and traditional media strategy and sponsorships, and her teams are responsible for ongoing test and learn performance marketing across media with focus on key digital platforms such as Search, Social, Automotive 3rd Party, and Programmatic. She brings more than 25 years in marketing, emerging media, content, and a deep understanding of the U.S. consumer spectrum to the monumental—and historic—challenges of being a major marketer today. Previously, she was the digital lead for Publicis Media’s Multicultural practice where she was EVP, Director of Digital & Data Solutions. She also spent 16 years at SMG Multicultural, and Tapestry, where she oversaw the agency’s digital division driving firsts such as first in language search efforts and first multicultural video upfront.

I started at Ford at one of the craziest junctures possible, just ahead of March 2020, which we all know became the one of the most tumultuous years our industry has ever had seen. It was amazing to watch our massive, global company shift from measuring sales to measuring quantities of PPE distributed in each region across the globe. The immediate pivot and resulting impact was incredible.

That pivot to being there when we’re needed set the stage for our new company purpose: to help build a better world where every person is free to move and pursue their dreams.  That purpose guides everything we do and particularly the media partners with which we work and the ways we show up for the audiences and communities we both serve.

Women are paramount among those audiences. It’s clear we need to go beyond selling vehicles to building lasting relationships, particularly with women given that since 2013, women have powered 87% of the growth in the non-premium auto industry. Finding the right fit for them is so important. For example, they want vehicles that are flexible and can adapt to changing needs. They also focus on comfort since there are times in their busy days where being in the car gives them their only “me time.”  We need to continue to tailor the products and experiences we create to these insights realizing if we create great experiences for women in all aspects of their ownership lifecycle, they’re more likely to remain loyal for years to come.

And women absolutely figure to be even more critical to success going forward.  We know we’re at the beginning of this curve, but we are really paying attention to women because they tend to focus on transformative issues like climate change and sustainability offering yet another proof point for our intense focus on leading in electrification.

As we look to form deeper relationships with women, we peel back the layers to understand women through the lens of culture from all backgrounds including African American, Hispanic, and Asian. Having cultural dexterity as a marketer is so crucial since culture is intrinsically linked to how people view the world and make choices, including those surrounding brands and media.

A major tool we use to ensure insights inform our planning is SeeHer’s Gender Equality Measure® (GEM®). Planning can be very quantitative, incorporating concrete elements like reach and cost. But GEM® goes deeper and answers the “why” questions behind what messaging feels authentic. It allows us to articulate the ways something is or is not resonating, to continue to refine our storytelling.  It’s so critical, we’ve embedded it into all our ad effectiveness studies and processes.

So, what have we learned during this year of marketing dangerously? Don’t think about women one-dimensionally. Focus on what matters to them based on real understanding of their needs, motivations and cultural backgrounds. Deliver what matters to them going forward. Our focus is pointed straight ahead, and we’ll be working to ensure every person – most definitely every woman – is free to move and pursue their dreams.