At the University of Texas, Austin, he majored in advertising. "I was always drawn to it," he says simply. He describes his first post-college job as a checking manager, a sort of glorified file clerk at direct-marketing agency Wunderman in New York City, as "great." He pauses a second to reflect, then deadpans, "Everything after that became very easy."
After six months as a checking manager, Mr. Gardiner moved into media planning; he left Wunderman and went to Needham, Harper & Steers, where in nine years he progressed from senior planner to senior VP-group media director. Time Warner recruited him to build media deals for prospective advertisers using the company's varied properties. "I loved it at the beginning. It was very breakthrough stuff" at the time, he recalls now. But Time Warner's interest in corporate marketing waned, so Mr. Gardiner returned to agencies. He spent several years as media director and managing partner at Bozell Worldwide, New York, before arriving at Deutsch in 2000.
As partner, chief media officer, Mr. Gardiner, 47, oversees 200 employees-more than twice as many as when he started. His staff includes media planning and buying as well as media research. The data strategy group, which tracks and analyzes the ties between media buys and sales, adds "a lot more science" to media, says Mr. Gardiner.
But media is no more important or less important than any other department at Deutsch, which is structured with a single profit center. "Media is a strategic part of the whole here, from beginning to end," he says. "It is affecting and being affected by all the other parts."
A recent example of an integrated media buy was "The Most Unforgettable 24 Hours of Their Life!" promotion for Revlon that wrapped up during the Aug. 28 "Video Music Awards" on MTV, a big draw for viewers in all demographics except for those over 55. On Revlon.com, young women applied for the chance to win trips to New York and to win a modeling contest; contestants were featured in Revlon board ads in Times Square and elsewhere, and the "Video Music Award" audience voted for the winner during the live broadcast. "Our partnership with MTV was one of the most creative and highly visible in Revlon's history," says Ms. Leipman-Yale.
In contrast to large media buying shops responsible for buying billions of dollars of media time, Mr. Gardiner says, "Our media is not just a buy and getting the cheapest price. It is about getting the best value."