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TV Guy Makes GoodIn Digital Age

Digital may be all the rage at media agencies, but at OMD, top television buyer Chris Geraci has been promoted from managing director to president-national broadcast. “We do have a tremendous number of digital people in key roles, running accounts and even strategy and offices,” says Alan Cohen, CEO of OMD USA. “But TV investment is and will remain one of the most critical functions of our agency. While it is changing fast and integrating into other media formats, TV is still the big fish.”

OMD spends about $4 billion on TV annually, and Geraci says his promotion reflects the size of his group and the importance of national TV to most clients’ marketing plans.

“It does seem to be taken for granted,” Geraci says of TV. “Perhaps it’s the simple fact that it’s always been there in terms of the modern era of mass communications. Now, to some degree it is both in the forefront and in the background at the same time, which is kind of interesting.”

Geraci has been working on television for his entire career, and has seen the medium go through economic and technological changes. He notes that there’s more programming to watch than ever, which has kept usage stable at very high levels. And thanks to high-defi nition, the TVwatching experience has been enhanced. At the same time, TV experience has also been enhanced by the acceptance of high-definition TV. That’s made finding large, mass audiences more and more difficult.

But there are still opportunities to find special projects that can have a big impact for viewers and for OMD’s clients. Geraci recalls getting three of his clients—Visa, Frito-Lay and Cingular—into the first round of Survivor on CBS, with product integrations built into the show. “It gets on the air and becomes a tremendous hit,” he recalls. “And then the second deal that we did was probably the most money I’d ever represented going into one primetime show.”

“Chris is a terrific negotiator who always gets the best deal for his clients,” says Jo Ann Ross, president for ad sales at CBS. “This is a very well-deserved promotion.”

OMD’s Cohen adds that “Chris’ skills go beyond TV, but the promotion is recognition that he is the OMD leading investment executive and is helping me craft the ‘One OMD’ investment approach we are moving to this year. He will lead that effort. As digital TV platforms and buys consolidate for efficiency and impact for our clients, all agencies will change. We will be changing first to be ahead for our clients.”

A native of New York’s Staten Island, Geraci loved television and the way it brought people together. His father, a professor at City University, was asked to teach a marketing course, and suddenly Advertising Age started showing up at home, sparking his interest in the business. While attending Pace University, Geraci took an advertising course with an agency executive who helped him get interviews on Madison Avenue. The economy was down and traditional account jobs were scarce, but there was an opening in the national TV group at BBDO. “And the rest is history,” he recalls.

Geraci recently remarried. A cool negotiator trusted with billions of dollars, he had butterflies before proposing to his fiancé. He arranged to get a restaurant to themselves and hired a guitar player when he popped the question. “The upfront last year was easy compared to that,” he says.

The couple have five kids between them. They go on ski vacations during winter break, because Geraci’s job tends to keep him busy with upfronts during spring breaks. He also bicycles and is learning to sail his new Boston Whaler. He’s also a UFO aficionado, with an X-Files poster on his office wall.

Geraci thinks this year’s upfront will be strong but that prices will be down to earth. After last year’s market, “I think a lot of the money is already in place,” he says. And while some believe that means prices could explode into the stratosphere, “I don’t see it that way,” he says. “I’m going to posture toward the moderate side.”

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