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Sam Michaelson started working in radio back in her college days, interning at a New York rock 'n' roll station and hasn't left the medium since.

Now, as senior VP-national radio at Zenith Media Services, New York, Ms. Michaelson makes all of the radio buys for the agency, handling clients such as Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus and Toyota divisions, Little Caesars Pizza and Procter & Gamble Co.

Ms. Michaelson worked 20 years at Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, New York, until its parent company, Cordiant, set-up the U.S. operations for Zenith this year and wanted the self-described former "radio baby" at the audio helm.

As one of the few radio specialists in the agency business, Ms. Michaelson's knowledge of and creativity in the medium has earned her respect from peers and sellers alike. But she believes any clout she may have results from her love for radio.

"If you don't believe in it, get out," Ms. Michaelson says. "I know that radio works."

She also knows how it works. Her ruling philosophy: "Somebody has to want to hear it and has to hear it often."

This approach led to the creation of the Toyota Top 10 and L'eggs Country Club-both hour-long shows based on America's most-common radio programming format, country music.

By co-opting the marketing needs of advertisers and the creative needs of radio sellers, Ms. Michaelson stands apart from her media colleagues, says Peggy Green, director of broadcast for Zenith, and her supervisor.

"That's truly the best marriage, when she gets together a client who wants to be innovative and a vendor who wants to be innovative," Ms. Green says. "That's really her claim to fame."

Blaise Leonardi, VP-director of sales, eastern region, Westwood One Entertainment, New York, has become accustomed to Ms. Michaelson's unwavering search for an inventive buy at the right price.

"That's why the advertiser wins either way," Mr. Leonardi says. "With her, advertisers get their money's worth-and then some."

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