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Parlaying the Gift of Gab Into Media Sales

Broadcast Syndication

Early in life, Barbara "Bo" Argentino wanted to be a lawyer. But fate took its course, and she became interested in another profession for which the gift of gab is a major attribute: sales.

Shortly after graduation in 1981, she took her first media sales job, an entry-level position at CBS. She wasn't there that long, only about 18 months, but her stint at the network left an indelible impression. Back then, she says, CBS was "extremely good at mentoring young people," particularly people like herself, who showed a lot of ambition and drive.

In 1983, Argentino switched to the buying side, joining Grey Advertising. She figured the position would provide her with invaluable experience for future sales posts, but she got more out of the job than she had imagined. She enjoyed the work so much she stayed on for seven years.

At Grey, she worked for Jon Mandel, who is now the chief negotiating officer at Mediacom, Grey's buying arm. Today, Argentino and Mandel do business on a regular basis, but working with him back then taught her many important lessons, including, she says, "how to be tough."

In 1990, Argentino got her first taste of syndication sales when she joined LBS, a pioneer company in the field of barter advertising. There, during the recession of 1991, she also got her first experience with selling in tough times.

Not only did she survive the downturn, but she attracted the attention of NBC, which hired her as an account executive overseeing the late-night, daytime and Saturday-morning dayparts.

In May 1994, she moved again when Columbia Pictures Television persuaded her to help start up the company's advertiser-sales unit.

Argentino thrived in the entrepreneurial atmosphere at Columbia's sales unit, which she established with two other executives. Within a year, she moved up from manager to vice president and, in 2000, was named executive vice president of advertiser sales for the division, which is now called Sony Pictures Television. In that role, she directs all sales operations for first-run and off-network product as well as advertising-sales activities for DirecTV. Under one recent deal Argentino made, BMWfilms will put its series of short films (made by big-name directors like John Woo and Guy Ritchie) on a dedicated DirecTV channel.

Looking to the future, Argentino wants to develop new revenue streams for Sony Pictures Television. She believes the name change can only help in that effort, and she see lots of cross-platform marketing opportunities that her unit can create with Sony Music, Sony Electronics and Sony Pictures. "[Now we can better] exploit the bigger Sony brand," she says, noting that, for three of the past five years, Sony has been identified as the most recognized global brand.