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Laura Silton is the billion-dollar woman, give or take a few hundred million, and that makes her a player.

Ms. Silton, senior VP-director of local broadcast for McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, has been a key figure during the last year in the national rollout of Local Communications, the consolidated spot TV unit of McCann and sister Interpublic Group of Cos.' shop Campbell-Ewald, Warren, Mich.

The major mover behind the formation of the unit was General Motors Corp., with about $300 million a year in spot TV billings. And it is General Motors that pays Ms. Silton its highest compliment.

"Laura is one of the main reasons GM decided to consolidate its spot buying with the Interpublic Group," says Betsy Lazar, the automaker's director of media operations. "She's a real intergral part of that. We find her to be an innovative thinker and a very tough negotiator."


Ms. Silton, 45, has very definite ideas about what a major spot unit should be. One important factor is regionalizing the operation.

"For example, you can't say to Texas Commerce Bank that Austin is only market No.*63, so it's not that important to us," Ms. Silton says. "You can't tell them the market is too small to assign to a senior buyer, because it's unbelievably important to them and to the Texas Chevy dealers."

Therefore, she notes, if you have an office in Houston, which McCann does, "all of a sudden Austin is a much more important market to us, too, and you can have a senior buyer buying the market. So you have to have regional buying. Not only are you located there, you have a much deeper buying staff."

Ms. Silton, a native of Boston, has been with McCann 20 years, the last 14 in Manhattan, where she lives with "my one 8-year-old daughter and two 9-year-old cats," she says.

Clearly two more reasons she's been successful is her depth of understanding of the spot marketplace and her ability to articulate that knowledge.


Lately, that understanding has led her to become a big believer in spot radio.

"With fragmentation and clutter becoming more and more of an issue," she notes, "we continue to search for ways to make the client's message stand out. We think that radio is way ahead in this. Most radio stations seem to have flexibility and eagerness to help sell the brand that many TV stations don't. They are terrific in localizing and customizing. They want to know what your brand's issues are. TV is starting to get there."

That being said, Ms. Silton has been in the forefront of those in the agency community concerned about the consolidation of ownership of radio stations.

"We don't see any benefit to the advertiser from it," she says. "If there is one, it hasn't been brought to our attention yet."

Then, she adds a classic Siltonism, the type of plain-speaking her clients love her for: "Furthermore, if all some group of radio stations in some city is going to offer me is some value-added deal that's 5% better than the one I've got now, but they're going to charge me a 10% rate increase, what has my client gotten out of it? I'm not interested."

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