Player Profile: Baglivo expands horizons for Panoramic's agencies

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When Mary Baglivo became president of Panoramic Communications last month from chief operating officer for WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson North America, she added the distinction of becoming one of the rare female executives to lead an agency holding company, albeit a tiny one, ranked 24th behind giants such as her former employer.

In her new post, Ms. Baglivo, 43, will oversee Panoramic's numerous operating units while keeping close to key clients, such as Novartis and Blue Cross/Blue Shield. One of her first challenges is to raise the profile of the $116 million holding company and its motley assortment of advertising agencies and consultancies including Earle Palmer Brown, Pagano Schenck & Kay and Yesawich, Pepperdine & Brown. She'll also hire creative talent to fill out teams that Panoramic CEO Jeb Brown began earlier this year.

"A lot of big agencies are able to deliver for big multinationals, but here is a company that has a full complement of services yet is agile enough to meet the needs of smaller clients and big clients," said Ms. Baglivo, adding that her job is to position Panoramic so clients understand that.

Still, she concedes it will take some work to make the rest of the business world see the breadth of its potential. For now, she's hitting the road to get acquainted with her teams. "I will get to know and understand the texture and capabilities and talent in individual companies. We'll really start working to be more effective against current clients and attempt to deliver additional services to current clients."

It's a task with which she is familiar.

During her first agency job as an administrative assistant at Benton & Bowles, New York, she took the advice of an account supervisor who suggested business school to speed her climb up the corporate ladder. Armed with a graduate degree, Ms. Baglivo joined Tatham in 1981 and 10 years later became the youngest-ever senior partner at then-Tatham, Laird & Kudner, Chicago, when Charlotte Beers was CEO.

"She really empowered young people that exhibited some talent and gave them chances to stretch way beyond the traditional," Ms. Baglivo said of her mentor. "I really believe in that. The young, fertile, unwarped brain is often one of the better sources of ideas."

As half of a one-two punch new-business team with Gary Epstein (director of business development at the time), then-president Ms. Baglivo snagged four retail clients Darden Restaurants' Red Lobster, Midas International, Wal-Mart's Sam's Club and Sara Lee Corp. in just six months. Later, Ms. Beers handpicked Ms. Baglivo to succeed her as CEO.

After 18 years with Tatham, Ms. Baglivo headed back East in 1999 to join JWT, New York, to be closer to her family and to work again with Ms. Beers. That proved to be a less than satisfactory position, as the agency underwent significant changes during her time there. Said Roger Rowe, exec VP-worldwide creative director, JWT, "She was in constant state of flux and she handled it with aplomb."

A perpetually tan fashionista who seems more at home with creative people than managers, Ms. Baglivo uses a wicked sense of humor to command a room. "I could be mistaken as a creative director-that's my fantasy," she said.

Being at a company with a smaller scale could be just the right fit for the petite Ms. Baglivo. Mr. Epstein, now CEO of Havas Advertising's Euro RSCG McConnaghy Tatham, Chicago, believes "she understands what it takes to be entrepreneurial and to move with greater speed than other holding companies."

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