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Almost 10 years ago, Stacey Lippman was having a drink at the famous Palm steakhouse in New York, mourning the loss of the Nissan Motor Corp. USA account with his co-workers at the Wm. Esty Co. agency.

When Mr. Lippman called home, his wife told him that Jay Chiat, who had just won the business, was looking for him. Mr. Chiat, it seemed, wanted to hire Mr. Lippman to head media buying for Nissan.


Last year, Mr. Lippman not only handled TBWA Chiat/Day's Nissan account, but also helped drive TV's upfront sales market for the automotive category. He also oversaw an increase in the agency's media operations to an estimated $1.2 billion in spending, making it the seventh-largest spot TV buyer in the U.S.

In addition to TBWA's own clients, Mr. Lippman also buys time and space for advertisers who have their creative done elsewhere, such as Bell Atlantic and movie studios Gramercy Pictures and Polygram.

Mr. Lippman says one key revelation has enabled him to build that growth and maintain course during the changes that have been rapidly hit the media business, from the influx of cable to the Internet.

"At the core of this change is what never changes-human nature," he says, adding that "human nature rebels at too much choice. [Consumers] want variety without chaos; seven or eight quality options, not 500 cable channels."


He encourages the buying of programming that his buyers actually watch, not "wasting a client's money by indulging in media enthusiasms" or buying programming that will fill boxes and look good on media flow charts.

A client with a big problem and a small budget should go for a limited number of high-quality broadcasts that people really watch, he says.

"Because the coin of the realm is a number, people think [media buying is] an exacting" business, says Mr. Lippman. Instead, "It's an art. You can't let the numbers be a crutch."

Mr. Lippman, who was born in San Francisco but raised in New York, attributes his success to maintaining a local media network with empowered and practicing buyers-"my media federation" as he calls it.

"Each is self-contained and controlled by an enfeebled central government," he noted jokingly.

Clients applaud him for his positioning.

calm and collected

"He is totally calm and collected and very intelligent, even when we ask him to do an insane thing on a moment's notice," says Karen Gustafson, advertising media manager for Nissan's Nissan and Infiniti divisions.

Despite his success, Mr. Lippman has kept his department's success quiet.

"We're not well known and I kind of like it that way," says Mr. Lippman, who has been a key player in TBWA Chiat/Day's recent wins of close to $400 million in new business this year. "One of the ways to get attention [during new-business presentations] is the element of surprise," he says.

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