Dene Callas

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The year 2000 has been a big year for Dene Callas. Spotting what was possibly the biggest surprise success in recent TV history, the 45-year-old turned the popularity of the CBS show "Survivor" into a windfall for Reebok International.

Ms. Callas, co-managing director and chief strategic officer for MediaCom, New York, together with Jon Mandel, co-managing director and chief negotiating officer, runs U.S. operations and oversees new business strategies and planning for the Grey Global Group unit, which has U.S. billings of $2.4 billion and $10 billion globally.

When CBS executives first approached Ms. Callas about "Survivor," she realized the show was a perfect fit for client Reebok, which targets consumers in the same age range (18- to-24-year-old males) as the core audience "Survivor" was after.

"Coupled with an athletic shoe, `Survivor' seemed ideal," says Ms. Callas. "Reebok hadn't been on TV in a long time, but with this they really made a big splash and maximized their media dollars to the fullest extent." Ms. Callas led the way in forging a media-led creative solution for Reebok, producing special creative with Berlin, Cameron & Partners, New York; two of the Reebok commercial spots include "Survivor" contestants.

In terms of reality-driven TV hits, Ms. Callas attributes the show's success to its somewhat sensationalistic fervor. "We see a growing trend in things that really push the envelope on human experience," she says.

In addition to the "Survivor" deal, Ms. Callas has acquired several major clients for MediaCom this year, including Subway Restaurants, Boston Beer Co.'s Sam Adams, Pharmacia & Upjohn and SFX Entertainment.

"I'm glad she's not a client," says Mr. Mandel, "because she's awfully demanding. Before we go out to make deals she thinks intensely about how to structure the deal with the client's needs as end result."

One such deal, polybagged with this month's issue of Vogue, is an addition sponsored by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, listing the 100 best-dressed.

Ms. Callas says the collaboration among LVMH companies, Vogue and MediaCom was a hit in the fashion world. "We worked in partnership with the client and the magazine to find a breakthrough opportunity and a premiere position in the September issue."

"Dene has a way of taking a zillion ideas and distilling them, crafting them and then overlaying them with a million more ideas," says Mr. Mandel, a 1998 Media Maven.

Prior to the establishment of MediaCom, Ms. Callas had put in 20 years with Grey Media, including serving as senior VP-group media director of Grey Advertising. Formerly Grey Media, MediaCom launched in the U.S. in 1997. Her college studies in Spanish came in handy when she served as managing director of MediaCom Latin America, running the company's Latin American division out of New York from 1994 to 1996.

Ms. Callas began in media with package-goods clients, adding kids and entertainment departments in her media profile. Over the years she's worked with Hasbro on everything from "Batman" to "Star Wars" toys, and featuring the cast of "Dawson's Creek" in the J. Crew catalog.

"I loved working on the kids' campaigns," she says. "In that area and in entertainment, media buying is about making a hit and running with it."

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