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In an unusual-and apparently secret-deal, N.W. Ayer & Partners' Media Edge has agreed to swap certain media buying chores with W.B. Doner & Co., Southfield, Mich., and Baltimore.

None of the four agencies now vying to acquire Media Edge following D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles' pending purchase of Ayer knew of the Doner deal last week.

Media Edge's client list includes blue-chip advertisers such as General Motors Corp., Procter & Gamble Co. and AT&T Corp. AT&T is by far the largest, with more than $300 million in billings.

Because of a conflict between AT&T and DMB&B client SBC Communications, DMB&B is unable to acquire Media Edge.


AT&T roster agencies Young & Rubicam, BBDO Worldwide, McCann-Erickson Worldwide and FCB/Leber Katz Partners (via sister unit TN Media) submitted proposals July 9 for acquiring the unit and were waiting to hear a decision by current owner W.Y. Choi-and AT&T-at press time.

Under the Doner deal, Media Edge is buying network time for Doner clients such as La-Z-Boy, and Doner is buying spot for Media Edge in certain markets where it has strength, including Detroit, Baltimore, Boston and Tampa, Fla.

Doner is the 14th-largest spot TV buyer in the U.S., with about $300 million in billings.

Though it's not unusual for buying services to buy time for smaller agencies, it is rare to find smaller agencies buying for larger ones, such as Ayer.

"We talked to a variety of people with a lot of network clout," said Alan Kalter, CEO of Doner. "We found Media Edge had a need for spot buying, which is one of our key strengths."

Mr. Kalter said his "arrangement" with Media Edge involved neither capital nor equity and started about two months ago.

"It's sort of like a barter deal, but not media barter. We're basically trading time," he said.


In a separate deal, Media Edge will offer buying services to the International Federation of Advertising Agencies, a group of about 55 independent shops. Executive Director Norval Stephens declined to comment. But IFAA members and executives close to Media Edge confirmed the arrangement.

One called it a "strategic partnership" but said that until Media Edge's future is determined, that deal is basically on hold.

Contributing: Chuck Ross and Laura Petrecca.

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