Cindy Nelson

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Cindy Nelson still recalls her first solo spot buy. She asked her roommate to take a picture of her with the Arbitron book. That was in 1980, just two years after she started in the business in the media department's accounting area at BBDO Worldwide's Detroit office. The three TV networks had an 80 share. "We were pulling ratings out of books by hand, market by market," says the Plainwell, Mich., native. "Now it's all automated."

And now, Ms. Nelson, 47, is general manager of Omnicom Group's PentaCom, Troy, Mich., the dedicated planning and buying agency for DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group. Ms. Nelson has worked on Chrysler's account virtually her whole career. She joined PentaCom at its inception in 1993 as senior VP-director of internal communications, working on several Chrysler accounts. She was promoted to exec VP and moved up the ladder in January 2000 to replace her mentor and direct boss, Phil Matz, shortly after his retirement.

Accounting provided "a good experience seeing the activities of buyers and planners," but Ms. Nelson figures she learned the most as a TV spot buyer at Chrysler shop Kenyon & Eckhardt, which evolved into Bozell. She spent nearly 14 years there, with half the years as a planner.

"She was crucial to the presentation" to Chrysler last fall that gave Omnicom and its BBDO unit the edge against True North Communications' FCB Worldwide, says PentaCom President David Martin, who recently moved to sibling PentaMark, also Troy, on special assignment. The prize: the client's $1.8 billion consolidated global creative and media account.

Ms. Nelson, who refuses to boast, will only say of the win: "I was part of the pitch and articulated the benefits of PentaCom. The win was a further affirmation of the benefits that PentaMark and PentaCom have to offer."

Mr. Martin hired Ms. Nelson at PentaCom because "she understands all the aspects of the business." He credits her with having "a great set of contacts at the client" and the ability to gain their confidence. "She knows the technical side of the business and finds a way to assist clients."

Ms. Nelson originally wanted to be a journalist, so she majored in English with an emphasis on writing for her B.A. from Western Michigan University. But she bought her older sister's spiel that she'd like the ad world and moved across the state to Detroit.

She's active in the Adcraft Club of Detroit and gives talks to college kids about jobs in the media business.

Ms. Nelson encourages young media staffers to try different jobs to find their niche. "That was the beauty in the time I came into the business. It was kind of baptism by fire."

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