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You'd think that after being tapped to succeed the closest thing to a living media-director legend-former Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide Media Director Joe Ostrow-Fred Wray would want to hold his course.

But when the venerable Mr. Ostrow left the advertising agency business and FCB in 1994, to become president of the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau, Mr. Wray elected to transform the $1 billion-plus media behemoth into a New Age media services company.

Mr. Wray may not have picked the name of the company, TN Media-an offshoot of the recently renamed True North Communications holding company (formerly Foote, Cone & Belding Communications). But he has taken that event as an opportunity to reinvent agency media services and, so far, it looks like he is indeed building a better mousetrap.

At least Campbell Soup Co. and a half-dozen other recent clients that have awarded consolidated media assignments to TN Media think so.

Earlier this year, Campbell, an advertiser that historically prided itself on maintaining a stable of several top agency media departments on its roster, consolidated its $130 million media services account at a new unit of TN Media dubbed the Campbell Media Alliance.

"We call it a joint venture," says Mr. Wray, whose division beat out a half-dozen other seasoned Campbell's shops for the account by helping to develop the internal, customized media unit.

"There were some agencies with very strong experience on the Campbell's business, and extraordinarily accomplished executives and capabilities. What Fred brought to the table was a completely new perspective on integrating media with the marketing and creative process," says Jack Myers, president of Myers Communications, a media and marketing consultancy that handled the media review for Campbell.

Instead of merely servicing Campbell's media planning and buying, Mr. Wray and Gary Moss, Campbell's VP-global advertising, conceived of the Campbell Media Alliance as a highly strategic unit that would interact with Campbell's brand management and develop media and marketing strategies often before creative or general advertising decisions had been made.

"Media should be a part of the advertising idea. But that's a hard thing to do and a lot of media departments have simply gotten lazy," says Mr. Wray.

The approach seems to be working, because Mr. Wray's TN Media has picked up about $200 million in new media-only billings since January. That includes not just the $130 million Campbell's assignment but also business from three separate retail-oriented restaurant chains: Boston Market, Sizzler International and Dunkin Donuts.

In fact, Mr. Wray's landing of the Dunkin Donuts account-in transition since the client left its former agency, Ally & Gargano, New York-has gotten sister agency FCB/Leber Katz Partners, also New York, into the pitch.

At presstime, FCB/Leber Katz was one of four finalists in the creative review, with a decision expected by the end of this month.

By his own account, the additional billings boost TN Media to more than $1.1 billion and rank it somewhere around "No.*2, or No.*3" in terms of media-buying clout, making Mr. Wray and his 160 staffers some of the most formidable media mavens on Madison Avenue-even if he happens to be based at True North's Chicago headquarters.

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