The staff of media agency TargetCast tcm gathered Wednesday afternoon to hear veteran and venerable national television buyer Gary Carr reminisce about the business one last time before retiring.
Carr, senior VP, executive director, national broadcast, was interviewed by agency founder Steve Farella. Some questions Carr decided to answer. Some not so much, displaying the cantankerous personality that helped make him a good fit as a negotiator.
Carr recalled starting his career back in the days when there were only three networks. He talked about his days working at NBC, watching Johnny Carson do the Tonight Show from 30 Rock. And then there was the time he was working as an agency research director and he was asked to help with a local radio and TV buy. "'You'll figure it out,'" he was assured. "'And you might get a free lunch out of it.' 45,000 free lunches later…" and Carr knew buying was for him.
His first job buying national broadcast was with SSC&B back in 1976. Since then, syndication emerged, cable came on the scene, Fox was launched, leading to a 30-year national television growth spurt. He recalled an aggressive Ted Turner making sales calls for TBS, CNN and TNT. Turner and the CAB built the foundation of the cable business, he said "They wouldn't take no for an answer. When I threw them out, they came back to talk to a junior planner."
Over the course of his career Carr says he was lucky to work for, and with, some smart people. He gave David Levy, now president of Turner Broadcasting his first job in the business, and tried to hire Joe Abruzzese, now president of sales for Discovery Communications. "I have a pile of resumes of people I offered jobs and didn't take them and left me behind," he said with a smile.
Carr offered some advice to the young TargetCast staffers crowded in the agency's café, urging them to live within their means and put money aside and contribute to their 401Ks, so they can leave the business on their own terms, like he did.
As for Carr's own post-retirement plans: Get better at golf, tackle the pile of books by his bedside, go to cooking school, take up the piano.
He was asked what he'll miss most about a business that took him to Olympics and Super Bowls. "I'll miss the people," he said. "I'll miss the guys I work with."
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