Some of that success dates back to a concept Ms. Johenning and her staff at the Interpublic Group of Cos. media shop developed about four years ago. With the help of a promotions team that works with Initiative, ABC's Los Angeles station ran a joint promotion tying elements of Carl's
commercials with footage of season premieres.
Over time, the program was expanded to season finales, additional TV shows and additional ABC TV stations in Carl's Jr. markets. Ms. Johenning believes the programs deliver upwards of 30% of a stretch in media spending.
"Great media buyers in our business are able to turn one dollar into two," says Richard Zien, president, Mendelsohn/Zien, the Los Angeles-based agency for Carl's Jr. partly owned by Hakuhodo. "I'm not sure they come any better than Sue. Clearly, she is one of the most respected buyers in the country," he says.
Ms. Johenning, 51, manages one of the largest spot TV buying operations in the U.S., overseeing nearly $3 billion in local advertising each year and working with 200 local broadcast buyers in 212 TV markets and more than 700 radio markets and thousands of local cable systems. That translates into placing 12 spots a minute, or 720 an hour, or 17,269 a day or 120,881 spots per week.
In addition to Carl's Jr.'s and its sibling chain Hardee's, other accounts in her bailiwick include America Online, Bayer Corp., Home Depot, Bally Total Fitness, BellSouth Corp. and Albertsons.
In May 2003, she was promoted from exec VP-director of local broadcast operations to oversee Initiative's entire local broadcast department.
Ms. Johenning, who started with Initiative 23 years ago as a buyer, has helped the business evolve, most recently trying to turn the flood of data from people meters and other sources into a proprietary automated Overnight Alert System, which flags ratings changes. "You can't wait two or three months to find out if a schedule did or did not work," she says.
While some may be stressed over the retail sector's frequent referendums in terms of sales data, Ms. Johenning likes the challenge. "It's fun to know on Monday how well the cash register rang."