Solid gold Rolodex accesses Hollywood

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As exec vp-partner at Omnicom Group's Davie-Brown Entertainment, Los Angeles, Tera Hanks is one of the product placement industry's leading players. She joined the business back in the 1980s when products got screen time because of relationships with prop masters-not as a result of multimillion-dollar media buys.

Ms. Hanks, 36, got her first taste of the entertainment industry as an intern on MGM's hit `80s series, "Thirtysomething," and after graduating with a degree in clinical psychology and communications, decided to pursue the latter.

Once out of UCLA, Ms. Hanks joined footwear company L.A. Gear in the marketing department. Her responsibilities were controlling L.A. Gear's product placement agency, Cato Johnson, Los Angeles. Ms. Hanks was so interested in the sector, she moved in-house with Cato Johnson and worked on other accounts including Serengeti eyewear and Conair Corp.

"One year later, after I learned the business and built up my Rolodex, Davie-Brown set me up as an independent contractor," she says. One of her roles was to work with PepsiCo's Pepsi-Cola North America and Reebok International to set up a TV department. It didn't take long before she'd also signed clients such as Nissan North America's Infiniti division and Lucky Brand Dungarees.

Since merging her company with Davie-Brown in 1996, Ms. Hanks has played a key role in growing the agency's business, and it's expanded way beyond simple product placement deals. Ms. Hanks is responsible for such tactics as celebrity seeding, buzz marketing and integrated media deals.

"Tera knows how to connect the dots between Pepsi's needs and the needs of our Hollywood partners," says Dave Burwick, senior VP-chief marketing officer for Pepsi-Cola North America. "She always acts with integrity, and she brings a remarkable understanding of how to build our brands through pop culture."

One of Ms. Hanks' more recent achievements was connecting car client BMW Mini Cooper to the upcoming movie release "The Italian Job." "I love being in the know about pop culture," she says. "I get calls and it could be the prop master on a film, a producer, a global president or a celebrity. I love being at the center of deals."

It's clear her focus on retaining "integrity" throughout her deals has won her many friends, as well as clients. But her proudest achievement remains her four young children.

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