AUERBACH UNDERTAKES VIRTUAL MEDIA BUYING

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First Chiat/Day created the "virtual" ad agency and now Steve Auerbach is creating the virtual media department.

In the four months since Mr. Auerbach left DeWitt Media, New York, as exec VP-electronic media to start his own independent media buying business, he has racked up nearly $85 million in media buying assignments from one advertiser and two ad agencies.

That new business run ordinarily would be impressive, but what makes Auerbach & Co.'s success truly impressive is that Mr. Auerbach is the company, which has no physical plant.

"I plan to hire some people and set up an office in New York, but what I've found since I started my business is that you don't need an office in New York City proper to do a good job," said Mr. Auerbach, who works out of his home in upstate New Paltz, N.Y. "There's very little difference between what I'm doing and working out of an office. If you've got a computer, a phone and a fax machine you can just as easily do business on your own somewhere else.

"This is not something that they taught you when I started out in the business, but you're starting to see more and more companies that are willing to outsource their services to get the best people they can to service their account," he noted.

Indeed, with more than 25 years experience as the chief network negotiator for such clients as Miller Brewing Co., Federal Express, BMW, MasterCard and Reebok International, Mr. Auerbach's services apparently are in demand, even if they are not tied to a corporate facility.

Since starting his business July 4, he has signed contracts to serve as the chief network negotiator for two major ad agencies: Campbell Mithun Esty, New York, and another he declines to disclose but is generally known to be Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.

At CME, Mr. Auerbach even carries the official corporate title of senior VP-director of national broadcast.

His first independent advertiser account is media buying for Parfums de Couer, a fragrance marketer he picked up from DeWitt.

Mr. Auerbach ultimately hopes to develop more independent advertiser accounts but believes an independent company like his can simultaneously service advertisers, other independent buying companies in need of network TV buying expertise and ad agencies.

"There's a limit to what you can do in terms of handling agencies. You can only really do it for one or two agencies, because eventually you're going to end up competing against yourself," said Mr. Auerbach.

Nonetheless, he said, "people are realizing that outsourcing can be an effective and efficient way to hire the experience they need but might not be able to afford on a full-time basis."

Mr. Auerbach would not talk about his work for Wieden, but he is believed to be overseeing network buys for Microsoft and has been leading an effort to pitch media buying for Nike, which has its creative at Wieden and media at SFM Media, New York.

Joe Mandese coordinates MediaWorks.

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