MEDIA MAVENS;TN MEDIA'S 'SHOWMAN' LOOKS TO INVOLVE CLIENTS IN TV IDEAS;HOWARD NASS

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Howard nass is, above all, a showman.

This native New Yorker's office is around the block from where The Hippodrome-one of Manhattan's greatest showplaces, where Houdini once made a 10,000-pound elephant and its trainer disappear-once stood.

It is that tradition of showmanship, from New York's Golden Age, that surely inspires Mr. Nass. His media expertise is local broadcast, but his title is senior VP-corporate director of local broadcast and broadcast development for True North Communications' TN Media.

It is programming, in a media context, that really gets Mr. Nass' blood pumping. If he isn't allowed to play around with story ideas, he just wouldn't be happy.

"It's the key way for my clients to become differentiated in the marketplace," he observes.

OVERCOMING THREE*PROBLEMS

In explaining why he likes to involve clients in programming ideas, he cites three problems on the media landscape right now: ratings are down, but costs to buy time are up; generally, clients have no control of program content; and clients generally have no control over what commercials run during a commercial break-a concept known as pod positioning.

"One way to control all three of these problems is to get into programming yourself," Mr. Nass says. While it is important to come up with a good idea-"for me, that's the easy part"-the essential element, he noted, is distribution.

That's where Mr. Nass' relationship with Eyemark Entertainment comes in. Last year he brought them a concept for a new syndicated talk show, "J & I." The pitch was "Mother and daughter dealing with issues of relevance," he said.

Eyemark liked it enough to find the hosts and to try and sell the show to TV stations at the National Association of Television Program Executives convention this year. Unfortunately, Mr. Nass claims, not enough stations bit, so the concept has been postponed. He had hoped that some TN clients, such as Campbell Soup Co., would sponsor the show.

Another Nass programming concept, for Sunkist Growers, hit paydirt recently. Mr. Nass had them sponsor 60-second vignettes about kids' soccer that were seen on cable TV. He had thought of the idea while watching his son play soccer, and yes, showman Howard even put his son in the program.

Some of the vignettes were followed by a 30-second Sunkist spot, again based on a concept by Mr. Nass. The concept was that Sunkist oranges re-energize the players.

"That one got me in trouble with the creatives," he says with a laugh.

But certainly not with the client. Gee Winands, manager of domestic advertising for Sunkist, says, "Howard doesn't think in normal media ways, which is why we like him. The things he came up with for us were a great success."

ON A ROLL

Sunkist is not the only client who is impressed with Mr. Nass. TN Media has been on a roll of late, winning Discovery Zone and Quaker State, among others, and Mr. Nass is usually in on the new-business presentations.

As for whether there are programming ideas for these clients as well, he simply says: "Stay tuned."

Then he adds, "By the way, did I tell you about the time I got George Burns to plug the A&P?"

Mr. Nass is also very active in trying to get electronic data interface adopted for local cable TV purchases. Along with Jim Birschbach, corporate director of ad sales at cable operator Tele-Communications Inc., Mr. Nass has enlisted the help of the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau and a number of agencies to move EDI along.

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