Joe Uva

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The hottest headline of the TV upfront market this year was " OMD in $2 billion Disney, Viacom talks." OMD was negotiating a $1 billion ad package with Walt Disney Co. and another with Viacom, both deals committing upfront, scatter and spot dollars from OMD clients for a year (AA, May 6). Few upfront attendees believed a word of it, and indeed, a few weeks later, the Viacom deal fell through. But the Disney deal held, making it the largest-ever single one-year deal between a media company and an ad agency.

And it happened under Joe Uva's watch.

Mr. Uva, 47, president-CEO of Omnicom Media Group's OMD, joined the media agency in January 2001. He had been president-sales and marketing at Turner Broadcasting Sales, a division of AOL Time Warner. The job required he travel the world almost constantly, visiting global OMD outposts and their clients as well as rebuilding OMD from a bulky buying behemoth into a full-service media agency with buying and planning capabilities.

Media planning, of course, would have to be unbundled from Omnicom Group agencies BBDO Worldwide, DDB Worldwide and TBWA Worldwide. Executives from these agencies, principally BBDO Chairman-CEO Allen Rosenshine and DDB Chairman Keith Reinhard, had long resisted breaking off media planning and research from their shops.

Since Omnicom CEO John Wren hired Mr. Uva, he's gotten right into the job of transforming the monster buying company into a brand new thing. Mr. Uva has been extracting the various planning divisions, (even grabbing hold of DDB's longtime media director, Page Thompson) and hauling them off to new offices in the Flatiron district of Manhattan, far from the offices of their respective creative agencies. Mr. Uva estimates the move will be completed in the U.S. no later than the fourth quarter.

David Verklin, CEO of Aegis Group's Carat North America, who was a candidate for the OMD job, says Mr. Uva is making steady progress. "When OMD is finally a cohesive whole, they are going to be an extremely feared competitor," he says.

Mr. Uva also has been introducing other progressive concepts into the media buying and planning business, such as employing account planners from creative agencies to work in media, not as media planners but to research the relationship between consumers and media.

"Especially in Europe, there's been a lot of work done in the account planning area," says Mr. Uva. "The opportunity we seized here was to take that same discipline but apply it to the consumers' relationship to media, since media touches consumers in so many different ways, on different platforms every day."

Mr. Uva's potentially revolutionary insight here is that he hopes to use these account planners to study, research and analyze entertainment itself to help programmers create shows that target audiences as effectively as brands target consumers. "It's in our best interest to see their shows succeed," Mr. Uva says.

Mr. Uva also is helping OMD score the traditional headline-grabbing deals expected of big-time shops.

OMD Managing Director Dan Rank "was the principal negotiator of the Disney deal," Mr. Uva says. "My role in that was the architect."