PLAYER OF THE WEEK: UPFRONT SKILLS WIN BLASIUS KEY TV POST AT TN MEDIA: MEDIA VETERAN WILL OVERSEE $1.2 BIL IN CLIENT SPENDING FOR TRUE NORTH UNIT

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Larry Blasius has some big shoes to fill-size 1.2 billion. That's the amount of money True North Communications' TN Media spends on network, cable and syndication TV, and it's the amount he, as TN's new senior VP-director of national broadcast, is now responsible for placing.

He succeeds Alison Danzberger, who left TN Media earlier this year. She was a high-profile media player, and her departure created a big void, coming as the upfront TV marketplace was set to begin. But TN put its faith-and its $1.2 billion-in the hands of Mr. Blasius, then associate director of national broadcast. TN management was so impressed with how he handled upfront negotiations they gave him the promotion.

5 YEARS AT TN MEDIA

Mr. Blasius, 41, joined TN Media in 1992, when it was still the media operations of Foote, Cone & Belding in New York. After having served nine years at BBDO Worldwide, New York, Mr. Blasius was director of national broadcast for Anheuser-Busch Cos.' Busch Media Group when FCB called. The agency had won the Coors Brewing Co. business, and the client suggested FCB hire Mr. Blasius.

PIONEERED SYNDIE UPFRONT

While at BBDO, Mr. Blasius helped pioneer the buying of syndication in an upfront marketplace. And he has been in the middle of some landmark sports deals.

"Almost two years ago exactly, I found myself on a July day in Phoenix, where it was 114 degrees. I was there helping to negotiate a deal to give one of our clients a major presence on the first national collegiate championship football game, which was going to be played at the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix the following January," he said.

"The client asked the question, 'How do we make ourselves bigger in college football?' " and the answer was to supply the title sponsorship of the game. Thus was born the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

"The fit worked and I think it's been very successful," he said.

"You certainly have to think what else you can bring to bear besides the lowest cost per thousand or the gross ratings points in a week. You want to break through the clutter," he said.

EXPANDED CLIENT CONTACT

Besides Frito-Lay, which is a buying-only assignment for TN Media, and Coors, Mr. Blasius has been responsible for such clients as Quaker State and Cadbury Beverages. Now he'll work closely with TN Media's entire lineup, including, Nabisco Foods, Levi Strauss & Co., Quaker Oats Co., S.C. Johnson & Son and Campbell Soup Co.

The amount of TN Media's billings gives the agency clout in the marketplace, but Mr. Blasius said you have to know how to use largesse.

"When you're big, you have to broaden your leverage by clients with different needs," he noted. "For example, if you're huge in prime time but have nothing in other dayparts, then the leverage you have can be limited by the sellers, who see you coming."

Mr. Blasius said the most valuable asset he brings to his new post is a fresh outlook.

"I'm not coming from the perspective that 'We can't do that'," he said. "I'm working on how best to position ourselves for our clients and where to lead

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