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It was 1995, and Pam Bentz recalls getting the phone call at home. It was one of the top executives of the popular West Coast fast-food eatery Jack in the Box, calling to say, "Pam, we have a problem."

Did they ever. Food poisoning, and the press was all over it. As expected, sales immediately plummeted. Crisis time.

That's also Bentz time. Ms. Bentz, 46, working for what was then called International Communications Group, Los Angeles, was the top media person on the Jack in the Box account.


"It was a wild time," recalls Ms. Bentz, who is now senior VP-general manager for Carat USA, Los Angeles. "We were on and off-the-air continually. Jack in the Box's chairman was in commercials himself to assure everyone that the company was on top of the situation. Not only the public, but the franchisees. And it was a big task for us too. The franchisees make a major contribution, dollarwise, to media."

Ms. Bentz, who considers herself a "people-person," has a calming, non-confrontational manner that helped defuse the crises behind-the-scenes. She's so low-key, in fact, she almost didn't get her job.

"They didn't think I was aggressive enough. I'm not an aggressive New Yorker. I'm from Michigan. So I got aggressive with them and got the job."

She's been with ICG, which was later bought by Carat, for 12 years. Most recently she's gotten more involved in new business pitches, and is especially proud of winning the $20 million personal products account Schwarzkopf & DEP, Henkel's U.S. subsidiary. The company is a bigger player outside the U.S., but the account is expected to grow significantly in the U.S. over the next few years.

Colleagues say Ms. Bentz is very good with strategy and analyzing the over-all picture. Says Andrew Butcher, co-chairman of the Carat office, and Ms. Bentz' boss, "Pam is great; an integral member of our team."

Perhaps most surprising about Ms. Bentz' career is that she's in media at all.

She started off her work-life as a dental hygienist.

"I actually taught people to become dental hygienists when I moved to Chattanooga," Ms. Bentz says, but she soon tired of it.

While she was working part-time at a tennis club, she met a man who owned a small ad agency and went to work with him. At the time, Chattanooga also was home to the largest bottler of Coca-Cola, and soon she left the agency to work at the bottler on the TV and radio portion of its advertising.

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