MEDIA MAVENS;'RARELY' BORED POWER BUYER PREFERS TO GO FOR THE BIG SCORE;STEVE GRUBBS

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At bbdo Worldwide, New York, they call Steve Grubbs Mr. Awesome.

He reportedly has an awesome golf game, and he's also awesome at fantasy football. Perhaps most awesome, however, is the buying of about $650 million of network TV that Mr. Grubbs, exec VP-national broadcast buying and program development, oversaw last year.

He was responsible for media buying by Olympic sponsors Visa International and Delta Air Lines and purchased about 10% of NBC's national spot time for the agency's clients (which also included General Electric Co., Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. and LensCrafters) during the Games. He also helped Pepsi-Cola Co. push its Pepsi Points in a blitz earlier this summer.

TV IMPACT

"We're involved in big events as an agency," Mr. Grubbs says. "Most of our clients are looking to associate themselves with an impactful TV environment."

Other favorites are the NCAA basketball tournament and powerhouse prime-time lineups.

"We believe shows like `Seinfeld' and `Friends' have a value above and beyond their cost-per-thousand [viewers] value," he says.

DIFFERING STRATEGIES

Mr. Grubbs says his negotiating strategy differs with each client: "I'm rarely bored with this business because of the negotiating process."

For instance, with client Pizza Hut, he looks for promotional tie-ins that can add value to their product, such as through promo spots on Fox touting both its National Hockey League coverage and the restaurant. For Visa, he tries to secure exclusives in the highly competitive credit card category. That usually requires swift action on his part, like the purchase of horse racing's Triple Crown races, which were being vigorously pursued by a competitor. He says he always arms himself with a Plan B when he comes to the negotiating table.

Mr. Grubbs landed in the advertising business in 1975 with a media research position at Young & Rubicam in New York. The exposure to TV excited him, and after 11/2 years at Y&R, he moved to BBDO as an assistant buyer. Over the next nine years, he rose from buyer to supervisor to associate director to his current position, which he has held for the last 10 years.

EXPERIENCE TELLS

Arnie Semsky, exec VP-worldwide media director at BBDO, says Mr. Grubbs' long history with the agency is a big benefit to clients.

"The clients really trust him because he has such a good track record and he's risen through the ranks here," Mr. Semsky says. "He's very fair. Ultimately, he's always trying for a win-win situation. He understands you can't always get that, but that's what he always tries to do."

Despite 19 years in the same place, Mr. Grubbs says the business shows no signs of going stale for him.

"With the tremendous advances in technology, this business is always changing," he says. "From year to year, no two marketplaces are ever the same."

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