Stacey Shepatin

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Stacey Shepatin doesn't use a hammer when she negotiates media deals for her clients at Interpublic Group of Cos.' Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Boston.

Instead, Ms. Shepatin, 34, uses creativity and discipline to craft media deals for clients such as Allied Domecq's Dunkin' Donuts and John Hancock Financial Services-minus the clout of a giant media-buying powerhouse.

"It's interesting that when I'm up against media companies whose buying power is 20 times the size of my agency's, I never feel at a disadvantage when negotiating-it's quite the opposite, in fact," says Ms. Shepatin, Hill Holliday's senior VP-director of national broadcast media buying.

In an increasingly consolidated marketplace, she says she has no choice but to be more innovative than the big guys, but she has an edge.

"Being smaller makes it easier to move quickly in this marketplace. We don't have huge budgets; we're closer to our clients' budgets, and we're not bogged down by processes like giant [media-buying] shops," she says. Hill, Holliday has 50 people in its Boston media department; 25 more are spread among offices in New York, California and Florida.

`Get closer to media'

Ms. Shepatin was originally determined to work in sports marketing, but she stayed only a year at her first job in the sales and programming division of sports marketing agency IMG, New York.

"I was dealing with buyers at ad agencies all day, and I wanted to get closer to media," she says.

From there she worked in a few more agencies including Foote, Cone & Belding, New York , moving to Hill Holliday in 1997 as associate media director.

"Hill Holliday is the perfect middle ground-small enough to be a truly integrated agency but large enough to draw high-profile accounts," she says.

Clients say Ms. Shepatin can add muscle to every dollar of a media budget.

"We concentrate our spending on high-profile events like baseball and the Olympics, so Stacey has to find ways to make a little bit of money go a long way on our other advertising programs," says Steve Burgay, senior VP-corporate communications at John Hancock. "Through grassroots programs and high-impact placement, we get a lot of return on our investment."

For drug chain CVS Corp., Ms. Shepatin has been instrumental in developing broadcast programs to support in-store ads.

A mother of two small children, Ms. Shepatin gets a boost from Hill Holliday's on-site daycare center and travels "just enough" to stay connected with key industry contacts.

"We went to the TV upfront this year with Stacey, and it was like going around with the mayor-she knows everyone at the networks and exactly what's happening," says Phil Risinger, Dunkin' Donuts' ad director.

But she hasn't forgotten her love of sports. This year she managed to find time to coach her son's T-ball team.

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