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BIRTH DATE: Dec. 20, 1939. CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Began ad career at Leo Burnett Co. Moved to an account management position at Foote, Cone & Belding's Chicago office in 1969; named president of FCB Chicago in 1985 and chairman of FCB Central in 1986. Named chairman of FCB's North American operations in 1988 and chairman-CEO of FCB Communications in 1991. PERSONAL: Married to Diana, with whom he has three daughters. Lives in Chicago. Served as captain in the U.S. Army. EDUCATION: B.A. in philosophy, St. John's University, and M.B.A., University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. MASON PUTS HIS BET ON A DIGITAL, GLOBAL TRUE NORTH FUTURE

By Published on .

CHICAGO-Bruce Mason, an adman whose avocation is flying, says when pilots lose their way, they regain a sense of direction by plotting "true north."

"It's immutable, a reference point when you're trying to find yourself," Mr. Mason said.

As chairman-CEO of Foote, Cone & Belding Communications,Mr. Mason spent three years helping the $7 billion agency network find its way back to financial and creative strength. Now, in overseeing FCB's rebirth as True North Communications, he's plotting his vision of the future-for his company and the agency business.

In announcing True North, the company gave a formal global structure to its unbundled U.S. media buying unit, and created an umbrella for a new agency brand-likely to happen through acquisition in early 1995 (AA, Dec. 12). A new vice chairman was named last week (see Page 25), but what excites Mr. Mason is TN Technologies, a joint venture with R/GA Media Group.

Using R/GA's proprietary digital technology, True North plans to link its offices to create what Mr. Mason calls a "virtual global agency." He believes the key to the new-media world is the ability to produce real-time, air-quality video globally.

He becomes animated discussing True North's digital future. Every creative team will gain a digital assistant. Real-time video production means a creative director in San Francisco can work on the same file simultaneously with a copywriter in, say, Tokyo. On-air quality means a video quality with which consumers are comfortable.

True North early next year will establish global computer access to its databases for its 190 units. Mr. Mason is pushing to be online in at least one office in every region of the world by the end of 1995.

Typically self-effacing, he said, "We may have made a wrong bet, and it's a big bet. But if it works, it may be a competitive point of difference for us, allowing us to be quicker, more creative and more integrated."

In explaining how he and board member Laurel Cutler arrived at the name, FCB Exec VP Mike Koelker wrote, "True North provides a tangible, objective provable direction in a business notorious for waffling." As has Mr. Mason, right or wrong, for his agency.

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