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When New York Times Co. acquired Affiliated Publications last fall for $1.1 billion, it was trumpeted at the time as an "outstanding strategic fit."

The deal combined the the nation's third-largest daily with 1.14 million Monday-to-Friday circulation, with Affiliated's Boston Globe, the 13th-largest paper with circulation just over 500,000.

More importantly for advertisers, the transaction was touted as a way for marketers to blanket the Northeast.

Now, more than six months after the deal was finalized last October, much of the synergy, at least on the advertising front, is still off in the distance.

While some limited advertising packages between the two papers are slowly beginning to take shape, company officials concede that so far they are largely symbolic.

"Advertising synergy projects have not been front burner," says a New York Times Co. spokesman. "Before there is a lot of benefit from group advertising, there is likely to be greater efficiencies from areas such as printing and distribution, bulk purchasing and other back-shop operations."

Indeed, in the company's annual report released last month, Chairman-CEO Arthur Ochs Sulzberger and Lance Primis, president-chief operating officer, could cite only one occasion where the papers teamed for a joint advertising effort. That involved a 1994 business outlook insert on Jan. 3. Since then, the two papers combined for another joint business section on April 5.

Each paper handled editorial material independently, but common advertisers included Fidelity Investments, Scudder Investor Services, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Vanguard Marketing Corp.'s financial services, and New York's Stanhope Hotel.

In addition, for the Jan. 3 supplement, Nynex Corp. took advantage of a group deal to place two pages of ads in the main business sections of each paper.

"I think you'll be seeing more of them," says William Pollack, exec VP-sales at the the man charged with overseeing combination buys.

Currently, a potential precedent-setting deal with one advertiser is being negotiated, says one media buyer.

"I've been sort of prodding them for the past several months," says Bob Zach, senior VP-media director of Chiat/Day, New York, who is spearheading the negotiations for the client, rumored to be Nynex.

If the deal, described by Mr. Zach as being a "substantial seven-figure contract," is clinched, it would mark the biggest combo buy to date and stand as a model for other deals.

"It seems as if they are becoming aggressive and pro-active," notes Mr. Zach.

But there are still big hurdles and more than a few media buyers who will continue to view the papers primarily as strong local marketing tools-instead of as a regional must-buy.

"There really has not been any great push to pitch the two papers as a combination," says Jack Cohen, VP-director of print media at DDB Needham Worldwide, New York. "The Times would be the No.*1 buy in New York as the Globe would be in Boston.

"If I got a better rate by buying a combination and I needed both cities, I'd buy it," he says. "Otherwise, I would not."

Even without the combination, the ad picture seems to be brightening in the Northeast after a long downturn.

Last year, ad linage at the grew 4% over 1992. And the Times last year saw ad linage grow 1%.

Mr. Pollack maintains he's not discouraged by the pace of the combination ad packages so far.

"I'm not at all disappointed," he says. "We've begun to know one another's markets and ways of doing business."

Future group efforts will key on ad categories such as financial, travel and telecommunications.

"By the end of 1994," he says, "we expect to have quite a few under our belt."

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