Ford's Marla Skiko on Inclusion, Diversity, and Gaming

By Bill Duggan

Marla Skiko is Global Head of Consumer Connections, Marketing at the Ford Motor Company. She will be a speaker at the ANA Media Conference in February. Bill Duggan, group EVP at ANA, sat down with Marla for this interview, which you can read below.

Bill Duggan: Given the inventory shortage of cars, how has Ford's marketing/media pivoted?

Marla Skiko: The effects of the supply chain challenges have certainly had us carefully monitoring the need to spur consumer demand. We adjusted our level of spend as made sense given the situation, but beyond conserving budget in a supply constrained environment, we also adjusted our approach to ensure we are as targeted as possible with our messaging. It has never been more important to have that right message, right audience, right channel fit as it is right now. It's also given us a chance to step back and focus even more on building relationships with our current owners to foster love for our brand among those who have already chosen Ford.

Duggan: ANA named "Inclusion" as our 2022 Marketing Word of the Year. What's your perspective on that (either overall or for your business specifically)?

Skiko: Inclusion is such an important word. It has wide and varied meaning such that it needs to be specifically defined within any individual business. "What does inclusion look like" is the right question everyone in a company should be able to answer in the same way. Beyond listing inclusion as a priority, companies have to create a specific action plan to achieve it. That plan should span constituencies from consumers to employees. The more inclusion is part of a company culture, the more authentically it will draw those it wishes to bring closer to the brand.

Duggan: Are you currently investing with diverse media suppliers? If so, please provide a perspective.

Skiko: Yes, we are investing as we believe it's critically important to invest with diverse owned media suppliers. Helping diverse suppliers grow is good for their business and for ours. We have to be engaged with diverse communities to bring them into the Ford family. Our growth depends on it as they are the fastest growing audiences in the U.S. Supporting diverse owned businesses spurs their growth and helps ensure we authentically connect to the audiences which they serve. In order to ensure we give more companies access and opportunity, we host quarterly sessions to meet with newly diverse owned suppliers and learn about their capabilities. This has given us the opportunity to meet more businesses and also learn about content that can appeal to different diverse communities in the process.

Duggan: Pick one – audio, CTV, gaming, retail media networks, direct mail. What excites you and why?

Skiko: Gaming really excites me. Its growth has been tremendous and it attracts so many wide and varied audiences depending on the type of game and mode in which it's played. We've been actively involved in gaming for years and realize there is tremendous upside to connecting in relevant ways that are authentic and welcome. It's a precarious space because if you get it wrong you can definitely do more harm than good. When you hit it right, as many brands have been able to do, you find another level of connection to many audiences that are really difficult to reach across other channels.

Duggan: What are you watching/streaming right now?

Skiko: I just finished Barry over the holidays. Bill Hader is so good. I have to say, Seasons 1 and 2 far surpassed 3 for me, but I still highly recommend if you need a laugh and satire, is your thing.

Duggan: What are you currently driving now?

Skiko: A Ford Explorer ST. It's the first lease I got when I joined Ford three years ago and due to supply challenges, I haven't yet traded it in for another. That should change as supply ramps up. I've got my eye on a Ford Bronco which will hopefully be up next!

Duggan: Thank you, Marla. We look forward to your session at the ANA Media Conference.


The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA. 

This interview was originally published at MediaVillage.