Barry Fischer

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Before he began his campaign to change the way the media world looks at cable TV, Barry Fischer spent 17 years as a top media buyer at New York agency Wells, Rich, Greene, pulling the levers on major accounts such as Procter & Gamble Co. and Ford Motor Co.

So he knew firsthand how much money clients were wasting on overpriced media, Mr. Fischer says, when he switched to the selling side in 1996 and became exec VP-research and marketing at Turner Broadcasting Sales, now part of AOL Time Warner.

Recruited by Steven Heyer, then president of the unit (and now president of Coca-Cola Co.), Mr. Fischer's mandate was to demonstrate through research how undervalued cable was vs. broadcast TV.

"Many years ago, cable was indeed a narrower reach, but over time it has evolved to the point where a fully distributed cable network offers the same reach as a network TV buy," Mr. Fischer says. "But a perception has continued that cable is less worthy."

To build his case, Mr. Fischer hunkered down with a team of technology wizards and researchers at Turner, producing a series of reports culminating in this year's "Media at the Millennium III: The Broadcast Reach Myth."

oversees software program

He also oversaw development of the Turner Multidimensional Analytical Platform, a media valuation software program developed by Turner with Nielsen Media Research. T-MAP was unveiled this year. Powered by the Pentium 4 chip, the tool has cut the time needed to run a media scenario from two or three days to mere seconds.

Although Turner's cable-is-equal premise is still debated by some in the industry, T-MAP is being widely adopted by the industry as an effective planning tool, says Mr. Fischer.

"Our mission has been to provide tools and analytical processes that make media buying and planning more realistic, instead of generic, and that benefits cable," he says.

Mr. Fischer, 53, says he's always relished the complexities of media, starting with his first job as a media planner at Benton & Bowles, before becoming a buyer.

In the 1980s, when media planning and buying were more integrated functions, he says he learned a great deal working under media luminaries such as Marc Goldstein, president-CEO of WPP Group's MindShare North America; Phil Guarascio, former VP-general manager, marketing and advertising, for General Motors Corp.'s North American Operations; and Mike Moore and George Simko, both former senior media executives at D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles.

"One of Barry's strengths is his ability to make a compelling argument," says Ray Warren, managing director of Omnicom Group's OMD, New York. "He's always been good at questioning things and coming up with a new point of view. He was smart and tactical when he was on the buying side, and now he's smart and tactical on the selling side."

Mr. Fischer, an avid downhill skier and marathon runner, welcomes debate over Turner's theories. "We welcome questions because we get a chance to show people the facts," he asserts, "and that's how you debunk a myth."

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