Karen Agresti

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A newly minted economics major from Boston College, Karen Agresti landed her first job at an ad agency -- as a receptionist.

She didn't answer phones for long. Within a year of signing up with that small Boston shop -- which eventually closed -- Ms. Agresti moved into media buying. Her first client was Pentax Corp. cameras.

"I thought what the media buyers were doing was so interesting -- all that wheeling and dealing," says Ms. Agresti, now senior VP-director of local broadcast for Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Boston.

The 44-year-old media veteran worked her way through million-dollar buys and more than 70 clients, including Dunkin' Donuts, Nissan North America's Infiniti cars and the discount Marshalls department stores. Her biggest deal was the $40 million title sponsorship of CBS News' "The American Dream" segment, featuring ordinary Americans.

The arrangement put client Fidelity Investments in front of consumers on network and spot TV, network and spot radio and the Internet with more than 1,900 promotional spots -- about seven each day. She says by the time the buy was done, it had morphed to $80 million in media and promotional value and had become the agency's biggest deal.

About 60% of the spots ran on network TV and radio, with 40% online, as well as some spot radio and TV.

With her network counterpart Stacey Shepatin and their six-person agency team, Ms. Agresti hammered out the deal for nine months with teams from CBS and Fidelity. Negotiations lasted nine times longer than the average deal because the CBS team had so many constituents, she says.

"It's an exciting way to negotiate. You talk to all different groups and have to come to an agreement on a deal," says Ms. Agresti, who handles more than $150 million in spot radio and TV buys.

"The deal gave CBS a huge chunk of change from just one client and allowed Fidelity to hit prospects several times a day in different media.

"The ability to go beyond a network or spot buy and to [have] different levels and be intertwined with each other . . . makes [the buy] much more powerful," Ms. Agresti says.

She is working on similar arrangements for two other undisclosed Hill, Holliday clients.

"Consolidation is the future of media companies, so why not take advantage of one-stop shopping and be able to leverage a lot of money with one vendor?" she says.

The Fidelity ads, which highlight successful investors for the Boston-based company, will run through the end of the year.

Pam Haering, senior VP at CBS Plus, the company's division that helps advertisers buy ads across all of CBS' media outlets, calls Ms. Agresti a shrewd negotiator who kept thinking of new ways to employ media.

"She worked with us and found additional ways to promote the segment as well as her client. Everything drove to that. It may or may not have happened without her. It was very good for us. It was awesome for the client," she says. "I would do a deal again with her tomorrow. She really knows her stuff."

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