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Cincinnati may not seem the ideal location for a media independent, but Mary Beth Price sees some hidden benefits-particularly for an agency that prides itself on being client-centered.

"I think we're closer to the clients, not only geographically, but from a mindset," says Ms. Price, president and founder of Media That Works.

"What often happens in New York with the big agencies and buying services, they become so close to the media that they become an advocate for the media instead of the client," she adds. "Relationships can work against you that way."


Relationships haven't hurt Ms. Price any. A veteran of Leo Burnett USA, Nielsen Media Research and the media department at Procter & Gamble Co., she has built one of the nation's leading media independents largely working alongside and for other P&G alums.

Bob Wehling, P&G's senior VP-advertising, market research and public affairs, says Ms. Price "was ahead of her time in seeing how you could bring the experience of a global advertiser to local market situations and really give your clients the best of both worlds."


Of MTW's annual billings, 85% comes direct from clients and 15% from agencies, which Ms. Price says is the reverse proportion of most media buying services.

Two former P&G executives who founded the LensCrafters eyewear chain originally spurred Ms. Price to leave P&G in 1985 to buy media for them in what was then a relatively rare venture as a media independent.

The chain last year decided it had outgrown MTW and awarded its $37 million media buying and planning account to BBDO Worldwide, New York.


After losing her biggest account, Ms. Price hired as a consultant Jim Van Cleave, P&G's former VP-media and programming, who directed the LensCrafters review in one of his first consulting jobs after retiring from P&G.

A year later, MTW had won several new accounts, including Bush Brothers & Co.'s baked beans, which sought more mileage from its Gold Effie-winning TV ads by Cole Henderson Drake, Atlanta. MTW helped improve recency and reach through longer flights and broader dayparts and media, including prime-time cable, says Bill Linton, Bush's beans brand manager.


"In terms of total billings, they're medium-sized at best," Mr. Linton says, "but they're incredibly sophisticated in the way they go to market."

MTW beat Euro RSCG Tatham, Chicago, and J. Walter Thompson USA, New York, in the Bush Brothers review. But to help ensure no more accounts feel they've outgrown MTW, Ms. Price formed a joint venture earlier this year with Worldwide Partners, a group of independent agencies with 50 offices worldwide. MTW already has worked for about 10 in projects ranging from small strategic-planning assignments to taking over entire media operations.

"They liked our strategic and systems approach," Ms. Price says, "which was what they were needing even more than the buying."

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