Kevin Klein was nominated for a PPC spotlight profile in January of 2022.
How long have you been working in PPC?
My career in search began in February 2014.
How did you get started in PPC?
A series of life events conspired to pick me up from where I grew up in the Washington DC suburbs and plop me down 10 hours away in Bloomington, IN. I had a portfolio of work in hockey analytics, and I think this was a compelling enough reason for a small agency in town to take a chance on me. I had no notion of what search was at the time. I was just looking for a paycheck and maybe dental if I was lucky. That agency was called Hanapin Marketing.
If you went to college, what did you study? If not college, do you have any other degrees or certifications?
I have a degree in jazz guitar performance from the University of Maryland. Go Terps!
What was your first job that involved PPC?
I was an account manager at the agency that hired me into the industry. “Account Manager” is one of those titles that can mean something drastically different at two different companies, so more specifically, I was responsible for managing the client relationship, optimizing accounts, and reporting out on performance.
What is your current position and how long have you been in it?
I’m currently a Senior Analytical Lead in the Travel Vertical over at Microsoft Advertising, and I’ve been here for over five years now.
What kinds of things do you currently handle or manage in PPC?
I do all sorts of things, but my primary focus is using analytics to answer the questions that the biggest, most complex advertisers in the world are asking. To give an example, Covid-19 has obviously been a central topic in life and in business for over two years now, and that focus has been emphasized to an even greater degree in the Travel vertical, where I work.
Thankfully, we’ve graduated to a place where the uncertainty attached to Covid is modest relative to 2020, but there was a time where every headline, CDC data update, or regulatory policy change was cause for scrutiny and analysis. During this time, I created a model that approximated the health of our search marketplaces compared to a period of relative normalcy, and provided an attendant recommendation about the advertiser’s spend aggression in that moment. This project remains ongoing and is distributed to many advertisers across different verticals. I think that’s a pretty good example of the type of work I like to fold into my day-to-day.
Has your career path had any hiccups or nontraditional aspects that you’d like to share?
Right out of college I took a job in a different field, which I pursued and advanced in for four years, before taking the agency job, which was very much entry level. I had to make the decision that the higher ceiling in a different industry was a worthwhile tradeoff for swallowing the bitter pill of starting back at square one. Now that I’m out the other side, I’m grateful to my younger self for having the longview.
What are you most proud of in your PPC career?
I’m very proud of my unconventional academic background. I work with Ivy Leaguers, MBAs, big-time executives, and all other manner of institutionally-accomplished people every day. You might think that my little music degree makes me feel like a fish out of water, but it doesn’t at all! There are myriad ways to advance, and I love the fact that I took the road less traveled (not that my 18-year-old self had any idea that’s what was happening when I auditioned for collegiate music programs).
What, if anything, do you wish you could “do over” in your PPC career?
While the road has been bumpy at times, I don’t think there’s anything I’d necessarily change. Of course as you mature and acquire some more professional polish, there are any number of incidents from your past that upon reflection you suddenly understand how to manage more expertly, but c’est la vie.
If you could give advice to someone either considering or just starting out in PPC, what would that be?
My favorite piece of advice is to take 5% of the advice you receive (let me know whether this advice falls into the 5% or the 95%). There’s just as much bad advice out there as good advice. Take what works for you, leave the rest, and don’t look back. If you want some more guidelines, prioritize advice from the people who have earned your respect and admiration.
Since the above guidance is more broadly applicable, I’ll also weigh in on something more specific to the world of PPC: start as a generalist. Learn broadly. Then, as you start to know the ropes and acquire a stronger command of the space, specialize.
Are you interested in speaking opportunities? If so, what topics are your jam?
I’ve greatly enjoyed the speaking engagements I’ve taken, although I don’t actively seek them. I’d love to proselytize to the greater PPC community about the merits of abandoning using simple averages in your analyses in favor of understanding distributions.
Anything else you’d like to share?
One of the great privileges of working at a publisher is I get to see an incredible diversity of approaches to advertising (primarily search). I’ve seen the constraints of smaller advertiser operations breed innovation, and I’ve also seen the fruits of huge testing budgets that supported zany, beyond the pale ideas. There really is no platonic ideal for how practitioners should operate in the field. Advertising is one huge sandbox, and while you’re going to have to snap to the parameters of your employers and/or clients for much of the time, be wary of the mindset that there’s “A Way Things Must Be Done”. Best practices and status quos are nice starting points, but exploring what’s beyond is where the true fun lies.
Where can people find you to connect (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.)?
You can find me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kevinkleinads/
By all means feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kkwrites, but be forewarned that I don’t tweet about search all that much, but if you’re into banal observations from the grocery store I’m your huckleberry.