Exec fast to recognize how to link Fox assets

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Before there was Viacom Plus and AOL Time Warner's Ad Council, there was Barbara Bekkedahl.

In late 1998, Ms. Bekkedahl, then VP-sales for Fox Family Worldwide, moved to sell the range of media properties under the Fox Family umbrella in package deals.

So an advertiser looking to reach kids could buy advertising for Fox Family Channel, Fox Kids Network, Fox Kids Magazine, a related Web site and radio content all at once. It seems logical, but three years ago that sort of one-stop shopping was still in its, well, kid-phase.

AHEAD OF THE CURVE

"I felt there were these incredibly valuable assets targeting kids, and wouldn't it be powerful if an advertiser could link them all together?" says Ms. Bekkedahl, now exec VP-ad sales for Fox Family Worldwide. "Everybody's talking about it now, but three years ago we were actually doing it."

These days, Ms. Bekkedahl's latest plan to boost revenue involves enticing more advertisers targeting so-called tweens, or 9-to-14-year-old consumers, to increase their visibility in the Fox Family universe.

The strategy looks to persuade advertisers that tweens have sizable allowances to burn, but more importantly, it's critical to create brand loyalty at an increasingly younger age.

"They're the potential purchasers of the future," says Ms. Bekkedahl, 42. "While marketers used to look at that marketing focus as teens, that focus has gotten even younger."

Ms. Bekkedahl has had to be innovative in developing sales strategies as she has climbed through the ranks at Fox Family, from New York sales manager in 1995 to her current post, which she assumed in June 2000.

In recent years, even before the current economic slowdown, the ad market targeting kids has ebbed in part because of the decreasing profits in the toy industry. Once again, this year's kids upfront marketplace is moving slowly, heightening the challenges faced by Ms. Bekkedahl and her colleagues at networks such as Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon.

Besides kids programming, Ms. Bekkedahl oversees sales for the adult or family content that runs on the Fox Family Channel. Earlier in her career, she had stints at Comedy Central (a joint venture of Viacom and Time Warner) and Viacom's MTV Networks, and in the media department at Philip Morris' Kraft Foods (now an important client), plus jobs in agencies Interpublic Group of Cos.' Lowe Lintas & Partners and Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide.

CHANGE AT THE TOP?

Ms. Bekkedahl may soon get a chance to work for another company. Fox Family co-owners News Corp. and Saban Entertainment are shopping the network and its assets, which makes Fox Family's future somewhat uncertain

Ms. Bekkedahl says she has found few obstacles in being a woman during her trek through the industry.

Asked during an interview in her corner office, with a sweeping view of midtown Manhattan and beyond, what advice she'd give women starting in the media field, Ms. Bekkedahl says: "Don't let all the male panels [at industry events] get you down."

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