Dan Rank

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Omnicom group's 2-year-old media agency OMD USA is still a mystery to some media executives.

But to Joe Abruzzese, president of advertising sales for Viacom's CBS Television Network, the agency's identity has always been clear. All you have to do is look at the company's name.

"We thought OMD stood for 'Our Man Dan.' "

As in Dan Rank, managing partner of OMD USA, New York, who became chief national broadcast negotiator for OMD's agencies in 1999. In that position, he leverages the combined clout of clients' national TV dollars at Omnicom's BBDO Worldwide, DDB Worldwide and TBWA Worldwide.

In the process, OMD has crafted a model of how media agency consolidation can work in negotiating major multimillion-dollar TV deals for a wide variety of ad clients, many of which compete with one another. The proof: Other recently formed mega-media groups, such as Interpublic Group of Cos.' Magna Global, appear to be following-at least in part-in OMD's footsteps.

It wasn't an easy road to pave, with OMD's collection of agencies representing about $2 billion in national upfront TV business from 100 clients.

During OMD's first big upfront in May 2000, Mr. Rank, 46, took control. "There were a lot of people ... screaming they wanted this and that," he recalls. "Then I said, 'I realize all of your concerns, but we need one person to do this and I'm the one who's going to decide.' "

It isn't just negotiating straight-ahead upfront deals where Mr. Rank shines. OMD has used the weight of its clients to push new programming ventures, especially for clients with young-skewing audiences, such as PepsiCo's Pepsi-Cola Co. and Frito-Lay, and Vivendi Universal's Universal Pictures.

Examples include a special on General Electric Co.'s NBC-TV in November 2000 with singers Dixie Chicks, forged with the help of Creative Artists Agency, and a Jennifer Lopez special slated for November on NBC.

OMD also prides itself on adding more media value to regular programming deals. A recent upfront deal with Viacom's UPN will give six of its clients not only ad time in UPN shows, but product placement as well-something broadcast networks traditionally have resisted.

This year, as upfront network pricing dipped 5% to 9%, Mr. Rank was in the driver's seat along with other top media executives when it came to negotiation.

"In years past, the upfront was so easy my 10-year-old could have negotiated the upfront," Mr. Rank says. "Not this year. I was getting phone calls from the presidents of networks. It was very emotional. There was incredible pressure."

Network executives say in spite of ups and down of the market, Mr. Rank has been a good media partner over the years, 14 of which were at DDB before OMD. "He's a great dealmaker," says Mr. Abruzzese. "He knows how to execute well."

When he's off his job, Mr. Rank is on his BMW R1200 motorcycle or cheering for his beloved Green Bay Packers. He's staked out his burial grounds near the team field.

Isn't the Wisconsin ground too cold?

"Yeah," Mr. Rank says with a grin. "If you die in February, they don't bury you until the spring."