"Hey, listen, I needed tickets to the U.S. Open" tennis event, he says of the potential prize.
The truth: Mr. Rutman, 50, was being a nice guy, indulging the young women who accosted him at Carat's entrance, with no idea they were hitting up a bigwig of a multibillion-dollar media buying agency.
With a blue-chip client list that has grown in both billings and cachet this year, Mr. Rutman, the newly promoted president of Aegis Group's Carat USA, is only a phone call away from any tickets he wants, including the U.S. Open, broadcast on client CBS-TV's network. When you oversee an estimated $3 billion in media spending each year, you're on everybody's A-list, from TV networks that broadcast events to the sponsor-hungry event organizers themselves.
"Charlie can have his pick," says George Schweitzer, exec VP-marketing at CBS.
As Mr. Rutman recalled the sweepstakes pit stop several days later, he says: "I really just like to help people out-it's as simple as that. They were trying to do something nice for us, and I was trying to do something nice for them."
Carat more than doubled its billings in February on what is now a $700 million account as it outdueled WPP Group's MindShare for the consolidated Pfizer business, including the huge portion from the former Warner-Lambert Co. Then came AOL Time Warner's New Line Cinema account, followed by the U.S. portion of the Philips Electronics business. In August, Carat peeled the $55 million domestic Adidas business away from Leagas Delaney, San Francisco. As client spending has sputtered this year, Carat USA scooped up $750 million in new business.
Although the wins make for nice headlines, satisfying existing clients like RadioShack Corp. and Viacom's CBS is just as fulfilling, Mr. Rutman says. Carat hasn't seen a significant piece of business exit since Ameritech Corp. was swallowed up in a 1999 merger.
Mr. Schweitzer, who worked with Mr. Rutman for years at Bates USA, moved his account from that shop when Mr. Rutman joined Carat in 1998 without a review.
"We wanted to be with Charlie," Mr. Schweitzer says. "He's value all the way. He cuts to the chase, and he's very instinctive."