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Irwin Gotlieb, president-CEO of media buying service TeleVest, says "buying" is not what his company does.

Instead, he explains, the employees of TeleVest, a unit of D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles formed in 1993, "manage our clients' investments in national broadcast media with portfolio management techniques."

With two decades of experience handling national broadcast media, complemented with a working knowledge of computers, Mr. Gotlieb has helped turn TeleVest into a $1.5 billion media buying powerhouse.

TeleVest clients include not only major accounts at D'Arcy, such as Procter & Gamble Co., Kraft Foods and AT&T Corp., but marketers that awarded the unit their business, such as the $70 million media-buying account from Dairy Management, a promotional joint venture of the United Dairy Industry Association and the National Dairy Board, won last spring.

Also among its major deals: helping make P&G a partner in the production of new network and first-run syndication shows, through a pact with Paramount Television Group.

Mr. Gotlieb says if he's successful, it's because he's both a strategist and a numbers watcher.

"I got into this business..... when you still bought a show for a client because you both liked the title. You'd say, here's `The Lucy Show.' Quantitative aspects were secondary," he says. "I focused on cost/value relationships.....and the whole business moved in that direction."

At a time when media buying meant knowing the right show's name, Mr. Gotlieb was counting the eyeballs watching it. To that end, in 1979 he wrote the code for a sophisticated computer program still in use at TeleVest.

Today, despite overseeing large clients with huge media budgets, Mr. Gotlieb says TeleVest's buys are oriented more toward strategy than tonnage. By working with media-savvy players and having access to a high-end computer system, TeleVest employees have more time to discuss strategy with a client, he says.

While he says that only people can make the intuitive decisions involved in wise broadcast placement, it seems this high-end computer program available to both staff and clients hasn't hurt. At least that's according to Werner Michel, Mr. Gotlieb's mentor from their days at SSC&B in the early '70s.

"Not only is he great at working with computers, but he is well-educated and internationally savvy," Mr. Michel says. "Many of our peers just do the numbers, but Irwin and I are proponents of this theory about TV that it's about other things."

"All we have done is taken assignments from years ago and build them into larger ones," Mr. Gotlieb says, describing how a $100 million business in 1977 has, at D'Arcy, mushroomed to $1 billion and beyond.

Jane Hodges

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