After more than 20 years in network radio -- the last 10 in sales -- she wanted to return to buying at the place she learned how: BBDO Worldwide, New York. Better yet, she wanted to buy for all of Omnicom. But in her characteristic style, she was slightly ahead of the curve.
OMD USA, Omnicom's unbundled media agency for BBDO, DDB Communications Group and TBWA Worldwide, didn't launch until February. Two months later, Ms. Swed Stone, 45, was hired as managing partner, director of national radio services.
"I felt that my name was on the job because I had imagined it two years before," she says. "It's putting my entire career together in this one place, putting the sales and the buying experience in one place where I can use it, and putting myself in a place that I knew as home."
But it's far from quiet on the home front. Ms. Swed Stone manages the estimated $90 million to $100 million network radio spending of all OMD clients, including Clorox Co., McDonald's Corp. and Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co.
That budget is significantly higher than the $60 million to $70 million that OMD estimated when it brought its three agency units together, says OMD USA CEO Steve Grubbs, who credits Ms. Swed Stone with the rise in network radio spending by clients.
"This year was the first year we put together an upfront recommendation for McDonald's," which had been struggling with how to use network radio, "and I think they were quite pleased," she says.
"For the first time we have a radio advocate within OMD," Mr. Grubbs says. "She's acknowledged virtually everywhere . . . as the negotiator in the business and as somebody who has a thorough understanding of the business based in large part on her number of years and her diversity of work experience."
Traug Keller, president of ABC Radio Networks, says Ms. Swed Stone's experience on all sides of radio are especially important today, as radio network consolidation and increasing TV costs are changing the face of the medium. "Clients asked to do more with less dollars view radio as an increasingly important option, and Natalie knows that. She knows how to sell it and she knows how to buy it," Mr. Keller says. "[OMD] now has one of the best people in the business in terms of depth of scope and knowledge about a medium that's undergone an amazing renaissance."
Ms. Swed Stone wants to further that progress. Beyond landing her dream job at OMD, she considers her work outside the agency -- with the medium as a whole -- to be her biggest accomplishment. This year she spearheaded an effort that will make ratings from radio measurement service Radar available through media billing and tracking company Donovan Data Systems, enabling OMD and others to track the efficiency of buys more quickly, as they do for TV and spot radio.
"We have to get [network radio into this] century," says Ms. Swed Stone, who thinks her seat at OMD puts her in the best position to push that. "In the world of consolidation, we need to be large enough to have a voice, and we're there. To be in a place where things are changing so rapidly that we can have an affect on them, that's exciting."