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Debra coughlin is reshaping the future of global advertising for MasterCard International.

Ms. Coughlin, hired in December 1996 as senior VP-global advertising and marketing services, is working hard to bring MasterCard's $400 million international ad budget under one roof at McCann-Erickson Worldwide-a radical departure for an association that traditionally has farmed out work to agencies in different countries.


She's acting on lessons learned during 15 years of agency experience, including a stint as Y&R Advertising's senior VP-global group director for Colgate-Palmolive Co.'s oral and personal care divisions.

"I truly saw how a strong partner can help you do better in markets all over the world," the executive says.

Ms. Coughlin, 41, worked for Y&R, New York, from 1982 to 1995. She left to go to J. Walter Thompson USA, New York, where she was senior partner on Warner-Lambert Co.'s Warner Wellcome division.

Ms. Coughlin's first task was to find an agency to handle U.S. advertising. Dissatisfied with work from Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York, MasterCard launched a review in March 1997.

In September, MasterCard tapped McCann. The association liked the shop's warm-and-fuzzy executions but also was impressed by its strong international network; McCann already handled the association's Africa/Middle East region.


Ms. Coughlin began her campaign to persuade the regions to take on the shop, emphasizing that the decision was up to them.

"McCann had to win the business in every market they were in," she says.

The regions have fallen in. Since September, McCann has won the company's business in Asia, Canada and Latin America. The next target is Europe.

Selling the No. 2 card association on the new direction has turned Ms. Coughlin into a very frequent flier, but the effort is rewarding, she says. "It is an incredible challenge."

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