Gotlieb hits all the right keys

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IRWIN GOTLIEB, a 30-year media industry veteran, graced headlines worldwide in September when WPP Group announced his appointment as chairman-CEO of MindShare, its worldwide media arm. The appointment came just seven months after he took a prestigious post as president-CEO of MediaVest Worldwide, 1998's seventh top media service company with $2.5 billion in billings.

All the responsibilities, accolades and challenges placed before this globally recognized visionary means Mr. Gotlieb will be watched carefully this year at MindShare. All of these changes, and the respect Mr. Gotlieb receives from his peers and the industry, make him Advertising Age's 1999 Media Player of the Year.

Those close to him say he's still among the first to embrace the latest industry concepts and technologies.

"He's had a lot of exposure to the industry over time," says Martin Sorrell, CEO, WPP Group, London. "But his experience doesn't limit his thinking. He's very adaptable."

ADAPTABILITY CITED

That adaptability, as well as his management savvy and vast media experience is what led Mr. Sorrell to tap Mr. Gotlieb to head MindShare.

MindShare is just now being organized in the U.S. as WPP's global media brand, combining the media units of J. Walter Thompson Co. and Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide. MindShare was No. 1 last year in top billings outside the U.S., according to Ad Age's Agency Report (April 19).

In 1998, Mindshare had $10.1 billion in non-U.S. billings, up 8.1% over the previous year. When the new entity was announced last year, WPP boasted that "MindShare will be the world's largest media management and services company with billings of over $16 billion."

The challenges Mr. Gotlieb faced turning his 6-year-old TeleVest-unbundled from D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles-into a worldwide MediaVest, which houses all the media resources of DMB&B and N.W. Ayers & Partners, are not too unlike the challenges he faces at MindShare.

Although Mr. Gotlieb will have to keep watch over MindShare's global operations-which includes 41 offices in 34 countries servicing clients including American Express Co., DeBeers, Ford Motor Co., IBM Corp., Kraft Foods, Nike and Shell Oil Co.-Mr. Gotlieb's first, and biggest challenge, comes here in the U.S.

His major task is to combine JWT's and O&M's disparate media arms into one cohesive unit.

Regarding his schedule to have MindShare up and running in the U.S., Mr. Gotlieb would only say, "The time line starts in the spring of this year, and it probably doesn't have an end date.

HOUSING AN ISSUE

"There's a broad range of issues that have to be dealt with," says Mr. Gotlieb. In addition to client and infrastructure issues, Mr. Gotlieb must find an affordable New York office space to house about 1,000 staffers. "We can not lose sight of the fact that we have client businesses to serve," he warns. "Everybody in the organization already has a full-time job."

Just hearing him speak of his duties can be exhausting, but the soft-spoken executive still saves time for family and personal pursuits. He recently revisited an activity he gave up 35 years ago: Playing the piano.

He is known for working some of his personal interests into work matters.

A diamond merchant's son, Mr. Gotlieb has taken young male staffers on excursions to the New York diamond district to give them a few gem-purchasing pointers.

TECHNICAL STAR

While Mr. Gotlieb may be jewel-savvy, computers are the one area where he really shines.

"He's maybe a computer genius," says Chairman-CEO MediaVest Worldwide Michael Moore, who hired Mr. Gotlieb in 1977 to work at what was then Benton & Bowles, New York.

Mr. Moore says Mr. Gotlieb was the first person he knew who could slap his hands together to make the lights in his office go on and off.

Mr. Gotlieb was on the computer track way before it was cool. In fact, he first began working on them in the early '70s.

Now he's moved from the mainframes of the early '70s and integrated his interest in technology into his home life, literally.

Six years ago, Mr. Gotlieb decided to build a completely wired "smart house" in Westchester, New York.

"You should have seen the electrician look at me when I told him what needed to be done," jokes Mr. Gotlieb.

He also recounts the story of when his daughter, "who is not a techie," returned home from a Harvard University break and didn't know how to turn on the lights. Mr. Gotlieb flicked the switch for her-from his hotel room in Europe.

His passion for "the science of media" helped the tech-savvy Mr. Gotlieb advance quickly.

CREATED TELEVEST

He spent the bulk of his career at D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles agencies. He started as an associate director of broadcast programming and moved up the ranks at the agency. In 1993, he founded its media arm, TeleVest, which he integrated worldwide in February last year as MediaVest.

In 1997, he was a key player in TeleVest's win of the $1 billion Procter & Gamble Co. TV buying assignment. In 1997, Mr. Gotlieb told Ad Age, that there's more to success than clout. "The bulk of the work is how well you translate your clients' objectives to actual buys. And the tools you have to do that, the systems, as well as the people you have become very, very critical to that."

Today, Mr. Gotlieb is still spouting similar words: "It will take massive amounts of talent, a broad spectrum of capabilities, global scale and resources to dominate the field."

Now, he'll be able to tap into the talent and resources of the new group of executives he'll be working with, including Mr. Sorrell, Ms. Pool and Peter Chrisanthopoulos, O&M's President of Broadcast and Programming.

The executives are confident that Mr. Gotlieb's media know-how, and people skills, will make MindShare a success in the U.S.

"Irwin is very people-oriented," says Mr. Chrisanthopoulos. "He understands the details, he gets his fingernails dirty," adds Mr. Sorrell. "He doesn't skate over the surface, he digs in."

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