Graduate Story: Dara Pappas ’17, Kantar

"For the most part, AI makes my life easier," says Dara Pappas '17, whose AI certification places her ahead of the curve in her role as research director.

Dickinson major: Psychology

Current role: Director of client services--media effectiveness, Kantar, with certification in AI for marketing


Market researchers like Pappas leverage AI tools daily to streamline research and analysis, generate additional ideas that may have otherwise been missed, break out of writers’ blocks and more. “AI is a vital layer in our research,” she says. “It raises the industry’s bar by enabling both [expert and less experienced] researchers to produce better work.”

How she got there

Pappas’ psychology major provided a solid foundation for her future in marketing analysis, and she gained leadership and communication skills as a global ambassador, Presidential Fellow and student-organizer for Dickinson’s Relay for Life event. She got her feet wet in marketing through a study-abroad internship in Copenhagen and a summer internship at a digital-marketing agency.

Connecting with a Dickinson alum, Pappas learned about and applied to a position at the advertising giant Ogilvy. First, she climbed the ladder from account coordinator to junior brand strategist at Ogilvy. Then she shifted to a brand-strategy research role at Momentum Worldwide. Within two years, she accepted a product-marketing consultant position at American Express and was quickly promoted to senior product marketer.

When COVID-19 hit in 2020, Pappas focused on deepening her AI knowledge and skills. Her AI certification placed her ahead of the curve—and helped her secure her current role at Kantar, a leading market-research firm. Pappas works closely with clients to assess their media-use needs; analyze media-investment strategies; and offer in-depth, customized insights to inform their marketing decisions. Her clients include Meta, Airbnb, Uber, Intuit, Whole Foods, Intel, Mediahub and PHD Inc.

“Developing a deep understanding of AI has made me a more competitive and valuable candidate, and it has become increasingly important as I leverage proprietary tools daily,” she says.

What it takes

“Staying at the forefront of innovations is crucial in this competitive industry.”" —Dara Pappas '17 

At Kantar, Pappas manages teams and measures the effectiveness and cost efficiency of media strategies. The work requires not only industry knowledge but also high-level analytical ability, including skills in qualitative and quantitative research. Creativity, communication and relationship-building, training and mentorship skills are also important.

“For the most part, AI has made my job easier, because it dramatically shortens the time necessary to conduct research,” says Pappas. “Tasks that previously took weeks or months now take seconds with Kantar’s proprietary AI solutions like Link AI, a tool that measures consumers’ emotive responses, eye-tracking, and diagnostic tracing.”

She notes that these added insights can yield more accurate predictions of media performance, so clients can make more informed decisions. Using AI also frees market researchers up to devote more time for more complex and creative tasks, and also for relationship-building with clients. And closer relationships lead to more finely tuned results.

Career advice

Because the field is so dynamic, Pappas must work continually to stay updated on both industry trends and on emerging technologies. She stresses that modern market researchers need to know how to optimize AI tools and how to effectively convey AI’s capabilities to clients. They also must be willing to continually stay abreast of both industry trends and evolving technologies.

“My advice for those considering a career in this field is to keep informed on developing tools and macro-shifts in the world that are relevant to their job,” she says. “Staying at the forefront of innovations is crucial in this competitive industry.”

Learn more about other Dickinson alumni working with AI.



Published May 31, 2024