Nine years ago, Mr. Verklin first grabbed the attention of the media community with a different kind of pitch for a different kind of car company. As media director at Hal Riney & Partners, he promised magazines that General Motors Corp.'s Saturn would stick with publications offering them innovative media concepts.
ROSE TO GEN'L MANAGER
The approach worked, not just for Saturn but for Mr. Verklin, who rose through the agency to become one of its top -- and one of the youngest -- managers, eventually with the general manager's title.
But a continued rise to agency president was not to be when Mr. Riney hired Scott Marshall, just a few years older than Mr. Verklin, for that title in 1995.
"I never felt other than I wanted to run a company," Mr. Verklin said.
So now, after 11 years at the San Francisco agency, he's heading east to run the U.S. operation of European media buying giant Carat.
"We have a chance to funda-mentally change the U.S. media buying landscape," Mr. Verklin said.
The way he sees it, the value of all U.S. media, from TV to outdoor to magazines, is $185 billion. Of that, 2% -- the largest share -- is bought by rival Western International Media.
Carat entered the U.S. just 18 months ago but already has billings of $1 billion, having picked up Ameritech Corp. and CBS, among others. In Europe, Carat has billings of $7 billion, or about 15% of that market, Mr. Verklin said.
Mr. Verklin, 42, sees few barriers to Carat's growth in the U.S., where media companies are not held to the strict conflict impositions of the general agency business.
"Media can get away with conflicts -- they are not held to the same conflict standards creative work is," he said.
Besides growing from winning new business, Carat also may join in the current merger and acquisition craze.
"That's the opportunity," said Mr. Verklin, who already is beginning to work on Carat acquisitions in North America.
Mr. Verklin's challenge is to carry off the company's expansion plans amid what he called "brutal competition" from Western, as well as other tough competitors including Leo Burnett Co.'s new Starcom Media Services, MacManus Group's TeleVest and Grey Advertising.
"For me, media was never about volume," he said. "What I tried to bring to the party was a sharper nail, not a heavier hammer."
Mr. Verklin leaves Riney as that agency has pulled together one of its strongest management benches. The agency is trying to expand its client base into more youthful target audiences, and Mr. Riney himself has penned a coming new campaign for First Union Bank.
Still, for a shop long associated with its founder, Mr. Verklin managed to take his share of the spotlight. As one of the agency's executives told Mr. Verklin at the announcement of his departure, "You don't work for the company. [For many] you are the company."
Contributing: Chuck Ross.