Kevin Kelly, CEO of BigBuzz Marketing, on drive, creativity, percussion and 'showing up'

KevinKelly
Kevin Kelly believes strongly in creativity. (BigBuzz Marketing Group)

Kevin Kelly, CEO of BigBuzz Marketing Group, wants to help lead the digital ad agency revolution.

Kelly’s firm markets products on the internet, through mobile devices, search engines, social media and other digital means.

“Our job is to create efficient marketing programs that drive the target audience to our clients’ customer touch points—digital properties, physical locations, call centers and other locales,” Kelly told FierceCEO. “Once engaged, we capture and re-market them in a variety of ways including retargeting and CRM tactics.”

Kelly always had a passion for technology, but he started out as an instrumentalist: a drummer.

He learned percussion in high school and opened his own recording studio at age 18 in his parents’ den. While at Berklee College of Music, he learned to be a musician and an audio engineer. After graduating from Berklee, Kelly became a founding member of the band FuzzBubble, signed by Puff Daddy. He didn’t like that he would have to stay in Los Angeles, so Kelly turned back to his other passion—technology—and began building websites in 1995.

The business took off and he established BigBuzz a year later. Early on, Kelly was hired to build an e-commerce website for Speedworld, an after-market car parts dealer. He also built fantasy soccer league and fantasy football websites, which lead to further website-building work for a major entertainment company. As additional website-building and advertising projects presented themselves, Kelly took them.

Today, BigBuzz Marketing Group is a full-service advertising agency based in New York City’s garment district with clients including Honeywell, Garanimals, Leviton and Icon Parking.

Kelly has very definite thoughts about the kind of drive it takes to be successful. “The most important attributes for success are to be decisive, be great at what you do and always be kind,” Kelly said. “The work comes easily if you have talent and passion. A lot of people say, ‘Follow your passion,’ but I say, ‘Follow the path where your passion and talents meet.’ One must find where their talents and passions align—it’s a great direction for success.”

Showing up “is one of the most difficult things,” he said. “Showing up involves being prepared, knowing you’ve done the work, you’ve been decisive enough to put in the time, you are prepared and armed with training knowing you’ll have a successful day. Showing up is not a given for everyone. The moment arrives and they are very unprepared and it’s a terrible feeling. This happens as a result of being indecisive or not passionate about their goals.”

Kelly is also big on creativity. “It has a lot to do with nature and nurture alike,” he said. “I do everything I can to nurture the creativity of those around me. We believe in being a culture that embraces both failure and success, because it’s often the most bizarre or offbeat idea that can be a fresh solution. Get yourself and your team into a place of creative thinking, unafraid of judgement and limitations.”

Fast Five with Kevin Kelly

When did you know you wanted to be a CEO?

I always wanted to build something that was my own.

What is your favorite question to ask in a job interview?

What gets you excited about our business?

What's the single most important trait for a leader?

Empathy.

What keeps you up at night?

People and the fulfillment of them on the team and client sides.

What's the key to finding new opportunities for revenue?

Innovation and creative thinking.