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A year ago, daniel Rank was fighting some tough battles. As exec VP-director at Optimum Media, New York, he was striving to retain the $120 million Universal Studios account while simultaneously dueling with Leo Burnett Co., Chicago, for the rights to McDonald's Corp.'s $350 million-plus media business.

"I was under a lot of pressure here," he says.

The result of the effort: Mr. Rank's team grabbed the bulk of McDonald's media account from Burnett last October. A little more than a month later, they not only retained the Universal business, but gained its theme park, home video and music media accounts.

Mr. Rank says the two wins were "the biggest thrill for me professionally in the last year." In a twist of fate, he learned of the McDonald's win during his first visit to a Universal theme park in October.

"We [he and a co-worker spent] half a day to check out the theme park and [later on voicemail] there was a message from McDonald's saying `congratulations, you won the business,' " says Mr. Rank.


Bruce Smith, worldwide media director for McDonald's, says Mr. Rank's "credibility" gave McDonald's the added incentive to shift the bulk of the business.

"McDonald's is a big piece of business. It's not an incremental change," says Mr. Smith.

Universal Studios' Senior VP-Motion Pictures Mark Kristol, who has worked with Mr. Rank for four years, says his colleague brings a high level of integrity to all the accounts he services.

"He brings a general sense of fairness to the process. He won't look to sell his clients on something that's not fair," says Mr. Kristol, adding that although Mr. Rank handles a variety of "fairly large and diverse" clients, he has a unique ability to understand each client's individual needs.

Mr. Smith echoed Mr. Kristol's sentiments: "He gets appropriately involved in understanding our business. He has the flexibility [during negotiations] because he understands our business."


"There's no doubt in my mind he is the best in the business," says Page Thompson, president at Optimum and U.S. media director at DDB Needham Worldwide, New York. "He not only understands the art of the negotiation, but is a true strategist when he thinks of media. There is no one more that I would trust going into a negotiation than Dan Rank. [He] looks at both the cost as well as the idea."

Mr. Rank says he is successful in negotiations and business because, "I like to think I can carry a big stick without being a table-pounder . . . I tend to [think] `let's find the solution, let's not assess the blame.' "

"He's fair-minded and evenhanded . . . He's not one of those up and down personalities, which is important in this marketplace," says McDonald's Mr. Smith.

"People like to do business at this shop because we have sane, rational people," adds Mr. Rank, crediting that staff with helping him achieve his own success.

"The real true strength of me and everything I do here is this [media] group," says Mr. Rank. "I'd put my 55 people out against any other group in town."

His management skills equally impress his clients. Universal's Mr. Kristol says, "What makes him valuable to the agency and clients is that he's a good manager of his people."

Mr. Rank says his background as a media planner also helps.

"I can talk reach and frequency. It makes me smarter than the average buyer. I know what a BDI is; most buyers don't . . . It makes optimizers less scary to me then to some of my counterparts."

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