John Gaffney

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When his employer of 15 years, Boston's Arnold Communications, had trouble placing American Legacy Foundation's graphic anti-smoking ads on network TV, John Gaffney moved in.

Sure, the dramatic "Truth" campaign was tough on the tobacco industry, but the message needed to be heard, he thought.

So Mr. Gaffney, Arnold's exec VP-media director, paged through his address book, called Legacy and network executives, and arranged meetings in New York to hammer out agreements. Within a month, the spots started appearing on the networks, including a schedule for NBC Television Network during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. By summer, they were approved for the six major networks, and appearing mostly in their original form.

"The easiest thing to do in a situation like this is throw your hands in the air and say, `We're not going to do it,' [but] John wasn't going to give up," says Keith Turner, president-sales and marketing at NBC.

Mr. Gaffney, who doesn't like the "Mr.," saying it refers to his dad, never gives up on clients with a problem on their hands.

Another such client was Fram Corp., a division of Honeywell's consumer products group that made auto straps to secure cargo on the tops of cars and motorcycles in trucks. The oil filter and air filter marketer eventually gave up on the endeavor to focus on core business, but not before being saddled with $125,000 in inventory.

Mr. Gaffney found a solution for this client and others that wanted to shed products. This year he launched Arnold Asset Management, the agency's barter program. He staffed it with two Arnold dealmakers who take something a client doesn't want and turn it into media time it does. The team turned Fram's plastic straps into $700,000 in TV time.

Mr. Gaffney says many companies have barter programs, but he knew of no ad agency with a division. He says more than 25% of Arnold clients have used the service, and he expects all to use it eventually.

Mr. Gaffney oversees about $850 million in media purchases for his clients, including Volkswagen North America, McDonald's Corp. and Talbots. His operation is staffed by 150 people.

One of his workers spearheaded a move in February to make five-year client Volkswagen the official sponsor of, a cable and online show that presents live performances by cutting-edge and unknown artists.

"One of my jobs is to empower my people to think out of the box, different about the car business," he says. "My job is to give them permission to act as if they are moving sheet metal . . . and do it in a way that resonates with people who buy VW in places we are being outspent 10 to 1. We can't do it by being just a little bit cheaper. We've got to do it by being a lot smarter."M

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