Richard Hamilton

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When zenith Media Services was tapped late 1997 to work with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, CEO Richard Hamilton put his problem-solving skills to work.

Mr. Hamilton, 48, was the key to creating and implementing a pro bono program that required networks to match each spot bought by the government with a free spot or anti-drug messages on TV programs or the Web.

"He was instrumental in pioneering the idea of the pro bono match," says drug program Director Alan Levitt, who also gives Mr. Hamilton credit for expanding the concept of the match beyond 30-second TV spots to include other programming options.

"He took a personal interest in this," says Mr. Levitt.

Mr. Hamilton says he got involved with drug prevention as a way to give back to the community. Although Zenith no longer handles the anti-drug account, Mr. Hamilton still fights the war on drugs as a member of the Media Steering Committee of the Partnership for a Drug-Free Greater New York.

Mr. Hamilton always has looked for innovative solutions to problems. When he interviewed for his first-ever media job at Benton & Bowles, he was asked by then-Director of Media Management Mike Moore: "What would you do here?" Mr. Hamilton replied: "I will try to invent superior solutions."

In the 25 years since, that's exactly what he's done. Mr. Hamilton landed that job as an assistant buyer and earned a reputation as a problem solver.

He spent 22 years at the agency, which later became D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, creating media solutions for clients such as Procter & Gamble Co., Burger King Corp., Kraft Foods and General Motors Corp. He worked his way up to overseeing D'Arcy's entire North American operations, which included more than 400 staffers in the agency's New York, Detroit, St. Louis, Los Angeles and Chicago offices.

Now, after three years leading Zenith, Mr. Hamilton has built the media company's North American billings more than 65% to $3 billion by using those problem-solving skills.

When clients clamored for more resources in the interactive arena, Mr. Hamilton launched Zenith Interactive Solutions, which specializes in Web media planning, buying and optimization.

"We're seeing more and more that this alternative is becoming mainstream," says Mr. Hamilton. "We're increasingly hearing from clients -- even those that use specialized interactive agencies -- that they're looking for a return on investment in their Web activities."

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