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By Published on .

Media buyers were crying and crumbling during this last TV upfront selling season -- what with the broadcast and cable networks grabbing 12% to 18% price increases in the wake of a vigorously strong market. Yet John Lazarus and his staff kept their sanity.

The only crumbling at TN Media's New York office was of the cookies being chewed.

"Every upfront, I go out and buy $100 worth of cookies," says Mr. Lazarus, 58, senior VP-director of national broadcast operations for the True North Communications unit. "Then I go around and pass them out. People count on them."

What kind? Nabisco Biscuit Co. "is our client -- we only buy Nabisco," he says.


This is the perspective that has kept Mr. Lazarus on top of the TV ad business for some 25 years, first on the selling side at the networks, such as ABC Sports in the 1970s-early '80s. He went on to head up ad sales at Fox when the network was launching in the late '80s. For the last several years, he has been a top media buyer, first at Bozell, New York, then at TN Media.

As with most good media executives, Mr. Lazarus says his job is about more than just buying spots.

"I really pride myself in knowing each company's organization," he says. "Then I can look at how to achieve on-air impact."

Recently he put together a principal sponsorship deal for Schering-Plough Corp.'s Coppertone sunscreen with ABC's "Daytime Emmy Awards" show next May. ABC will help produce a Coppertone sweepstakes, and in exchange, the network's name will be featured in product displays.

Mr. Lazarus pioneered an early deal with multiple CBS properties for client Taylor-Made-Golf. Most recently he engineered a groundbreaking deal between client Victoria's Secret and American Movie Classics and Bravo.

In surveying the current marketplace, with network TV ratings dropping and audience fragmentation, advertisers need to work harder at deals that go beyond just buying TV ad time, says Mr. Lazarus.


"If you are going to talk about share of voice, you have to keep your client pushed to the forefront," he says. "That means some creative energy. But that's what's real fun."

Media buying and selling is a definite family matter for Mr. Lazarus. His son, Mark Lazarus, is exec VP of sports sales and global marketing solutions for Turner Broadcast Sales.

"We try to keep out of each other's way," says Mr. Lazarus. But sometimes, just for fun, they'll play the media buyer/media seller game. "I'd tell him, 'How much do do you want for that? You're crazy!' "

Mr. Lazarus leaves the craziness to the annual upfront negotiations -- with all its late night work. This year was especially hard.

"Nobody did well, but I think we did as well as anybody," he says. "The biggest

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