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As the media buying chief for Seagram Americas, Richard Shaw has earned a place in advertising history.

Mr. Shaw, VP-marketing communications for Seagram, was the man who orchestrated the distiller's spot TV campaign last year, a move that sundered the liquor industry's long-term voluntary ban against broadcast advertising.

The tactic raised hackles with regulators and President Clinton, but it fit snugly into Mr. Shaw's credo as a spirits marketer.

"My personal operating philosophy is that innovation should be part of the fiber of what I do every day," says Mr. Shaw, 49. "When the competition walks I want to run, and when the competition runs I want to walk."


Mr. Shaw still evinces some excitement when he talks about how Seagram brass, led by Exec VP-Marketing Arthur Shapiro, decided to break into broadcast more than a year ago.

Mr. Shapiro "was the innovator and I was the executor of the strategy," Mr. Shaw recalls. "It was nice to see a senior executive take that kind of position."

But Mr. Shaw has made many more contributions in his 27 years at Seagram. He started out on the brand side of the company and, in a 17-year span, worked as product manager on 17 different brands.

This background proved valuable once he was shifted to the administrative side of the business 10 years ago.

"I know the brands very well," he said. "I'm able to bring that understanding and insight over."

Mr. Shaw has been instrumental in developing Seagram's direct marketing efforts. Using database marketing techniques, the distiller can pinpoint consumers for promotional mailings.

Currently, he is developing ways of reaching consumers on the Internet. The distiller opened sites for Chivas Regal, Absolut and Captain Morgan's rum last year and is experimenting with improving their viewing.


Mr. Shaw is constantly looking for ways to distinguish the distiller's brands from a crowded market, even in traditional media like magazines.

He is particularly proud of ads that ran in the 1997 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. The edition featured a five-page ad unit for Captain Morgan's that mimicked SI's editorial look as well as a fold-out back cover for Chivas Regal in which a pair of shapely legs turn out to belong to a man.

Grey Advertising, New York, created the Captain Morgan ad while TBWA Chiat/Day, New York, handled the Chivas ad.

Mr. Shaw's efforts over the years have earned him the respect of his boss, Mr. Shapiro.

"Richard's drive has led to the development of many unique marketing communications programs," Mr. Shapiro says.

Mr. Shaw is eager to push ahead with the latest vehicle for Seagram-TV advertising.

"I'm very excited because it's another tool in our marketing arsenal," he added.

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