The Player: After new-media adventure, Wray heads to Initiative fold

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Frederick H. Wray has returned to the fold. The new managing director of Initiative Media's central region is a media agency veteran who left the business a few years back to join startup Ewireless. Like a handful of other media agency vets who left for new-media ventures and recently decided to return- such as Michael Drexler, recently named CEO at Publicis Group's Optimedia after working for an Internet marketing company-Mr. Wray is glad to be back.

"I missed the business, especially the media business, because of everything that is going on," Mr. Wray said. By that of course, he means the meteoric rise of stand-alone media agencies.

"Mike has a great reputation in the Foote Cone & Belding world, which is important to us," said Alec Gerster, CEO of Interpublic Group of Cos.' Initiative. "I knew he was being considered for some other jobs, so we said, `Hey, what better place for him to be than with us?' He's been at a lot of places, been through a lot of stuff and he's a young but very experienced guy in a very competitive market."

Mr. Wray, 48, started in 1976 as a media buyer with Bcom3 Group's Leo Burnett Co. He moved to FCB in 1981 and became the shop's Midwest media director. In 1994, he was promoted to senior VP-worldwide media director. After True North Communications was created in 1995, Mr. Wray and his colleagues set up TN Media, a full-service media shop that claimed billings of $400 million in media-only business by 1997. Mr. Wray became its president. "We were [unbundling media] before most of these other media organizations came into vogue," Mr. Wray said. " Starcom wasn't born yet. OMD and MindShare weren't around. We were pioneers in this area."

Mr. Wray, based in Chicago, will manage the strategic media planning and buying for Initiative's central region, which includes operations in Chicago, Cleveland and Dallas. One of his priorities is to develop econometric modeling and other strategic services for clients.

`Strategic angle'

"We are hugely competitive in the buying arena," Mr. Wray said. "We've got that area of the business captured, now let's start to focus on the strategic angle and the creative angle and how we can bring those elements to work for clients."

Mr. Wray once worked closely with Mr. Drexler after True North acquired Bozell in 1997. Mr. Drexler was worldwide director of Bozell's media operation, which he and Mr. Wray merged into TN Media. Mr. Drexler was named chairman of TN Media and Mr. Wray remained as president. Mr. Wray left the organization in 1999, when Bozell's Chicago office merged with FCB. TN Media was subsequently absorbed into Initiative after the Interpublic acquisition in 2001.

"We worked really well together," Mr. Drexler said. "Fred's a really bright guy, and he really knows the media business."

Does he have any advice for his former colleague? "Tell him the world has changed," Mr. Drexler said. "The media agency business isn't anything like the way it was when he left it. ... Be prepared for it."

Fast Facts

Name: Fred Wray

Age: 48

Now: Managing director-central region, Initiative Media

Challenge: To turn Initiative into a media strategy force

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