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Unnoticed power: media buyers control millions in Little Rock ad market.

Ginger Smith's first position with an ad agency came at age 19 when she took a layout and paste-up job at what was basically a one-man shop.

When, at age 20, she applied to Holland & Associates, there were no positions in the art department. So she had to make a decision.

"You can either be a gopher or a media buyer," her future employer told her.

Since she didn't like the idea of being told, "Go for this, and go for that," Smith decided to become a media buyer. Today, she's media director for A. Tim Irby Advertising Inc. and Puckett & Associates.

Although the description of media buyer was presented to her on an undistinguished par with a gopher, the position of directing all media buys is one of an agency's most powerful roles.

"There are those who think they've got a lot of power," says Smith. But she adds, "This is not New York."

Even small agencies such as Irby Advertising spend big bucks, though. And it's the media directors who are deciding where to spend the money.

"I could just as easily trash a proposal as I could pass it on to all our clients," says Smith.

While a client might opt to spend more on advertising production, as much as 75 percent of a client's budget often is spent for the purchase of media. That translates to some powerful decisions for media directors at agencies like Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods, which bills just over $40 million annually.

"When you look at the agencies in town, the media buyers control a lot of dollars," says David Rainwater, media director at Mangan Rains Ginnaven Holcomb.

He says, though, "I'm not a maverick. I don't do anything on my own."

Media directors concede some unnoticed power, but most are quick to say the clients are ultimately in control.

"We're just stewards of the clients' money," says Lili Palmer, the media director at Stone & Ward. "We're entrusted with their money."

The clients' money doesn't go solely to the media buy, according to Rainwater.

"Our clients pay us to disagree with them. If we don't do that, then we're doing them a disservice."

Most clients don't dictate where they want their advertising placed, and media buyers prefer it that way. But when clients make specifications the buyers don't agree with, tact has to be used to save the placement while keeping the account.

"It's just like any other account politics," says Rainwater. "There's a lot of diplomacy involved."

In some cases, buyers have to rely on clients' suggestions.

For instance, Carrie Palmer, media director for The Communications Group, has several industrial manufacturing clients. She says they know better than she the publications in which their ads should be placed.

But her role is still essential.

"A lot of times, they don't understand what a target rating point is in television," says Palmer.

There's a scientific side to media buying that isn't always understood.

"A lot of people really don't know what we do," says Lili Palmer. "It's not just buying the 6 o'clock news."

Palmer also says, "It's not just number crunching."

The objective of today's media buyer is to form a complete media plan.

The question is, "What can we do to break out of the clutter?" says Palmer. "That's what we've got to do today."

The Life Of A Buyer

A call to Nadine Eichhorn, media director at Combs & Heathcott, finds her having to schedule times to talk on the phone.

"As you can tell, the life of a buyer is pretty hectic," she says.

But when asked to explain what her days are usually like, Eichhorn says, "There is no typical day in the life of a media buyer."

That doesn't mean she works a lot of overtime, however.

The business of buying media has become more scientific than ever, but computerization has eliminated much of the time-consuming manual calculations that used to be part of the job.

Many agencies use what's called a Media Management Plus computer, which builds media proposals after the buyer inputs the client's goal and budget. It's the computer that devises a plan.

The rating services of The Arbitron Co. and the A.C. Nielsen Co. are more easily available through computer systems now as well.

As Barbara King, supervisor of media planning at Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods, puts it, there is a conglomerate of media research available today.

"Buying is not buying like it was five or six years ago," says King.

And, Eichhorn says, the sales people have changed as well.

"I could not tell you if there is something that happened -- if they went to Dale Carnegie or what," says Eichhorn.

The "schmoozing" sales people of five years ago have mostly either wised-up or gotten out of the business.

"I don't have too many people kissing up to me," says Smith. But she does say, "Of course, there's always flowers and things like that."

Smith says, "That's all part of the game, and everybody recognizes that."

The difference today is, Smith adds, "it's not an overt expression of 'Gimme your business.' It usually comes after they get your business."

"Sales people know that they have to have a good product before they will be included on a buy," says King. "We can't justify it just because they take us to lunch."

And increased scientific measurements mean there's more accurate tracking of whether the advertising is working.

"We're held accountable for the stations we buy," says King. "We're not buying the sales person. We're buying the station."

If a buy is marginal, most media directors say the sale then comes down to money.

Consequently, the "schmoozing" doesn't tip the scales or parlay into a done deal.

"It doesn't make any difference when it comes to spending your customer's money," says Georgia Bobo, an account supervisor at the Frank J. Wills Co.

Besides, says Debra Reid, the media director at Ginnaven Patterson Associates, "No one person says I'm going to spend $1 million here. It's just not that way."

She does admit, though, that media directors have the power to influence clients.

Reid says it's not unnoticed power, but media placement may be an overlooked importance at agencies.

That's because, when it comes down to it, a great creative product won't work if it's put in the wrong place.

Media Money

Who's Making It And Who's Not

Paychecks may be private for most people, but there was a time when almost everyone knew what Carolyn Long, the former KARK-TV, Channel 4 anchor, made.

It was well known her yearly salary was more than $100,000 and that her compensation at the station included two cars -- a Porsche and a customized Suburban -- and a $5,000 clothing allowance.

That was back in the mid-1980s -- a time when veteran Little Rock media stars were being paid as if they were in a big-city market.

Although those days are gone, Little Rock media salaries are still higher on average than in markets of comparable size.

But averages are hard to come by. Few people will talk about their own salaries, and, although they'd like to know what their competitors make, some refuse even to discuss the subject.

There are some obvious factors affecting the market, though.

For instance, the dominance of KSSN-FM, 95.7, skews the sales and thus the commissions at other radio stations.

There's a small band of sales people at KSSN that have been at the station long enough to be nearing or topping $70,000 a year.

But the imbalance of KSSN's power is affecting the sales of other stations. If a station is going broke, its sales people aren't making money.

While KMJX-FM, 105.1, is making strong sales, it's not even in the same ballpark as KSSN. Three of the six people on KMJX's sales staff have been at the station six years or more, but they're probably only making 20 percent of what KSSN's highest sales people draw.

Station managers in the market start at around $40,000 -- less for some of the very minor stations -- and continue up. Jay Werth, general manager at KSSN, is probably just hitting six figures.

According to newly released figures from Radio Business Report, the average general manager makes $56,458 with a $6,269 bonus.

The average account executive earns $32,184, although that number may be a bit lower in Little Rock.

A first-year sales person may start at $24,000. From there, the station and the sales person's experience make all the difference.

The same is true for on-air personalities. Radio Business Report puts the average disc jockey's salary at $22,471. But, of course, personalities such as morning men Bob Robbins at KSSN and Craig O'Neill at KURB-FM, 98.5, are making considerably more.

If the average is quadrupled, that would be a closer estimate of Robbins' salary.

Meanwhile, an overnight DJ might only make $12,000-$15,000.

There's no question O'Neill isn't in the same situation as when he was the morning talent at KKYK-FM, 103.7, and it was the No. 1 station in the market.

But with perks and ad-lib spots, he's still one of the highest-paid veteran radio people.

In this market, paying your dues can pay off.

TV Is It

Television salaries in the Little Rock market, while still higher than average, have come down in recent years. But the drop hasn't affected some favorite personalities.

The salaries and talent fees of KATV-TV, Channel 7 meteorologist Ned Perme and sportscaster Paul Eells can't be touched even by other seasoned news people such as KARK's Steve Barnes.

Perme and Eells are worth six digits each to No. 1-rated KATV.

Barnes probably isn't making what he did before his hiatus from the Little Rock television market. But the extra money he earns from his work with the Arkansas Educational Television Network and from the copy he writes for national publications and local ad agencies brings him up to a more-than-comfortable level.

His new west Little Rock home attests to that.

Other seasoned newscasters, including co-anchors Joe Quinn and Anne Jansen of third-ranked KTHV-TV, Channel 11, are probably doing well in the $35,000-$40,000 range.

KATV's anchors, Andy Pearson and Gina Kurre, are doing considerably better, though, in the $70,000-$80,000 range. Although Kurre is arguably the stronger talent of the two, Pearson's salary probably beats hers by about $5,000.

Weekend anchors are more in the $25,000 ballpark, while reporters dip even lower. A news director can nab a reporter anxious for the big time for as low as $12,000-$15,000. A tenured reporter can hit $40,000, though.

Once again, the station makes all the difference. For instance, while KARK news director Bob Steel and KTHV news director John Rehrauer are probably in the $40,000-$65,000 range, KATV's Jim Pitcock is much closer to six digits.

Producers can hit the $30,000 ballpark, but the average is closer to $20,000.

As one local television employee says, "Just because you work in TV doesn't mean you make a lot of money."

The advertising end of television is the most lucrative in Little Rock media sales, though.

Sales trainees can make $25,000 and tenured account executives can make upwards of $50,000. Local sales managers can make $60,000-$80,000, while general sales managers can make more than $80,000.

This compares to the print media, which has account executive averages between $25,000-$35,000. Ad managers are around $40,000. Figures vary among publications.

For instance, Spectrum Weekly sales people probably average in a $16,000-$25,000 range. Similarly, ad management positions at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette are closer to $60,000.

With its large staff, the Democrat-Gazette is especially varied in its salaries.

Top management people at the daily newspaper are making more than Arkansas Times and Arkansas Business owners Alan Leveritt and Olivia Farrell. They're probably in the $60,000-$80,000 range.

Spectrum Publisher Dave Wannemacher, whose wife, Karen Hutcheson, has financially supported that paper for seven years, doesn't even take a salary.

Perhaps that consoles some on the Spectrum editorial staff, who start at lows around $12,000 and don't have the chance of going much higher than $22,000.

Arkansas Times and Arkansas Business writers fare better in the $15,000-$25,000 range, while editors top out in the $30,000-$40,000 range.

Even Mr. Media, John Brummett, who at one point seemed to be going for the Little Rock record of having worked at more media outlets than anyone, probably isn't making as much money in his positions at Arkansas Times and the Democrat-Gazette as his counterparts in television.

Not that he's hurting.

While television is consistently where the bigger bucks are, personalities like Robbins and Brummett prove that if one can finds his niche -- or niches in Brummett's case -- he's got it made.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Journal Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Media Who's Who; includes related article on media buying personalities; Little Rock, Arkansas; advertising
Author:Rengers, Carrie
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Aug 31, 1992
Words:2160
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