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A one-on-one sales strategy

In the wake of the extensive consolidation taking place among ad agencies, ABC Sales is switching from zone to one-on-one coverage of the market.

In a major reorganization announced last week, the network said it has created sales teams that will be devoted to specific agencies as opposed to the daypart sales structure currently in place.

There will still be daypart specialists, the network said, but the first point of contact for agencies and clients will be with the newly created sales teams known as "client specialists."

In addition, ABC named Patrick McGovern to head a new effort to get to the agency and advertiser media planners, who often create the strategies that media buyers simply execute. As senior vice president, sales and strategic planning, he reports to Mike Shaw, president, ABC Sales.

The ABC sales reorganization is the network's attempt to address all the consolidation that has occurred in the ad-agency world in the past several years. "The agencies have already really set themselves up this way," says Shaw. "And our ability to have teams of people to deal with agencies who have their own teams in place matches up well" and makes for a more efficient process for planning, buying and selling advertising.

Current estimates are that 82% of all U.S. advertising billings are handled by the top four ad-agency holding companies: Interpublic Group, WWP Group, Omnicom and Publicis/ Bcom3. The big four also reportedly accounted for 95 of the 100 biggest client/ agency switches in 2001.

So, on the agency side at least, size seems to matter. But, at a TV advertising conference put on by the Association of National Advertisers last week in New York, marketers debated just how beneficial (or not) the consolidation has been. Up to now, said P&G's David Cowan, the impact has been minimal: "It's more hype than reality."

Cowan, director of U.S. media and programming, said the ad-marketing business has become "very complicated" in the wake of all the consolidation. "We're still trying to crack the code" as to what it all means.

"Scale is imperative in the marketplace," said Peggy Kelly, vice president, advertising services, Clairol Inc. But as for translating that to media and marketing strategies, she said, "we're not there yet."

For Bill Cella, CEO of Interpublic's new ad negotiating arm, Magna Global, the answer is relatively straightforward: The more budgets one agency controls, the more knowledge that agency has about the marketplace. "Knowledge is power," he said. "It really helps you read the market better."

Under ABC Sales' new structure, client specialists are expected to develop marketing partnerships, execute buying and planning goals, and finalize all deals. The daypart executives will be responsible for pricing, inventory management and planning. "This new structure will allow us to create deeper and stronger ties with clients and agencies," said ABC Television President Alex Wallau. "It will allow ABC to better understand the core objectives of our customers" and more efficiently execute those plans.

Cynthia Ponce will head the client-specialists group as executive vice president and general manager, reporting to Shaw. John Caruso and Gary Montanus have been named senior vice presidents of the specialists group, reporting to Ponce. Team leaders are Carrie Byrne (Mindshare and MediaEdge), Andrew Messina (Magna Global and Carat), Tom Storrier (MediaVest and Mediacom) and Catherine Sullivan (OMD and Zenith).

Daypart strategists are Vice President Max Steelman (news) and Senior Vice Presidents Gail Sullivan (daytime) and Geri Wang (prime time). They all report to Shaw. Bill Bund continues to head ABC Unlimited, the cross-platform sales unit, and will report to Ponce.