AD AGE POWER 50;BLOCKBUSTER AND HARRAH'S LEADERS PLAY THEIR CARDS RIGHT AND SOLIDIFY THEIR WELL-MARKETED NICHES

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A hot and fast-growing entertainment company doesn't necessarily need to be a global juggernaut like Disney/ABC or Seagram/MCA. Just ask Blockbuster Entertainment Group's Brian Woods and Harrah's Entertainment's Karen Von Der Bruegge.

Of the two, Blockbuster has the most clout, building its international operations and emerging from its own merger with Viacom last year. Since then, its marketing budget has hit fast-forward to $175 million, controlled by Mr. Woods.

The 35-year-old senior VP-marketing is charged with cross-pollinating promotions among the company's sister units as well as serving as co-chair of parent Viacom's marketing council.

As such, many of the company's future promotional efforts will come as joint deals with new siblings, including Paramount Pictures and theme parks, as well as Simon & Schuster Publishing.

Among his bigger power moves: Mr. Woods controls the co-branded Blockbuster/Visa credit card; an exclusive distribution and marketing agreement with Coca-Cola Co.; and a marketing tie-in with Planet Hollywood restaurants.

He oversaw and co-produced the Blockbuster Entertainment Awards TV show that aired on CBS in June and, internationally, Mr. Woods is overseeing the launch of Blockbuster Music in Australia.

Mr. Woods' strategy?

"We want to be ubiquituous," he says.

With an advertising budget one-seventh the size of Blockbuster, Harrah's is already ubiquitous in the gaming world. Harrah's, in fact, was the only casino company to report casino revenues exceeding $1 billion last year, thanks in part to Ms. Von Der Bruegge's smart marketing.

As VP-strategic marketing, the 42-year-old executive uses a package goods strategy in leveraging her $25 million budget.

"It makes no difference if it is a casino or a food product [you're marketing]," she says.

"We launched Embassy Suites [formerly part of the same operation but now spun off from Harrah's] like a packaged product."

For Harrah's, that strategy includes sinking some of the budget into database mark-eting to identify and target potential gaming prospects for Harrah's casinos.

As could be expected, she also employs hotel marketing techniques.

"I have been able to take some knowledge from hotel brands, such as a 1-800 number and [Embassy's] Gold Card, and apply it to Harrah's," she says.

The frequent-guest Gold Card now in use at Harrah's offers gamblers free chips, VIP tickets for shows, free dinners and invitations to events such as golf tournaments.

Ms. Von Der Bruegge also pushed cross-marketing with the associated hotel properties-such as listing Harrah's casinos in directories carrying Embassy Suites ads-if applicable to gaming.

Surprisingly, Ms. Von Der Bruegge doesn't use Harrah's marketing budget to market against her competition; she aims to draw new consumers to casinos. "We feel we can get customers without taking away from other forms of gaming," she says.

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Karen

Von Der Bruegge

Harrah's Entertainment Co.

Ad budget: $25 million

Agency: Trahon Burden & Charles

Career: Ms. Von Der Bruegge cashed in her chips at Mars Inc. in Houston, where she had served as VP-marketing for eight years, in 1985 to join Embassy Suites. She moved from Embassy, where she was corporate director of brand marketing, to Harrah's in 1992 (both were part of Promus Cos. at the time).

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Brian Woods

Blockbuster

Ad budget: $175 million

Agency roster: D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, St. Louis, Blockbuster Video and other projects; Foote Cone & Belding, Chicago, Blockbuster Music.

Career: Took his first job in 1985 as district sales manager at Walt Disney Home Video, fresh after graduation from the University of Kentucky's marketing program. After seven years in various marketing posts in the entertainment field, he joined Blockbuster as director of national advertising in 1988 and was promoted after the Viacom merger.

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