The Player: Bringing American accent, Gaffney joins MPG brass

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Until recently, a call to executives at Media Planning Group USA's headquarters in New York invariably meant talking to Spaniards such as Antoni Rossich, CEO, or David Colomer, chief marketing officer. Both men are from Barcelona, the home of Media Planning Group, which became part of Havas Advertising in 1999.

Now a call to MPG's top brass puts you on the line with John Gaffney, who is as American as Boston baked beans. He's the shop's new chief operating officer, recently elevated from president of arnoldMPG, the media arm formed in January when the media planning and buying division at Arnold Worldwide, another Havas shop, was integrated with MPG.

"I'll be spending most of my time in Boston," said Mr. Gaffney, who still holds the title of managing partner of Arnold, based in Boston. "But I'll be in New York a lot. We have three big offices: New York, Boston and Chicago. My responsibility will be for all of those, so I'll be in all of those places."

MPG USA is a media holding company for Media Planning, arnoldMPG, Media Contacts (interactive media buying and planning), Media Planning Diversity (multicultural media planning and buying) and Media Planning Direct. It has 11 offices and claims billings of $3.2 billion.

Mr. Gaffney, 50, is a big, personable man, over 6 feet tall, who is well known for being client-centric. For most of his 25-year career he's worked closely with marketers. When he started out in the media department at Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, he was a United Airlines and Kellogg Co. man. Later, as an associate media director at J. Walter Thompson, he was an account man for Ford Motor Co., in charge of network TV buying and planning. In 1985, Mr. Gaffney joined Arnold (then HBM/Creamer), where he handled a variety of clients such as Stanley Tools, Parker Brothers and Molson Brewing Co. He rose through the executive ranks of Arnold Worldwide, working closely on Volkswagen, helping launch the New Beetle, and with the American Legacy Foundation's graphic anti-smoking ads in the 2000 Olympics.

Mr. Gaffney will now turn his attention to managing the shop, rather than focusing on clients. "Obviously I'll have a lot to do inside," Mr. Gaffney said, "but working with the clients is my one love and I'll do that as much as I can."

MPG is at the end of a year-long process of integrating the media departments of Havas' creative shops Jordan McGrath Case & Partners, New York, Euro RSCG Tatham, Chicago and Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer Euro/RSCG (now Euro RSCG MVBMS), and Arnold. The integration initially met with resistance from the shops, according to executives familiar with the mergers.

"We are now 100% integrated in terms of the staff and clients," said Mr. Colomer. "All those media departments are 100% MPG."

Mr. Gaffney will report to Mr. Rossich, who wears two hats, as both CEO of the media holding unit MPG USA and as CEO of Media Planning, its general media agency.

Fast Facts

Name: John Gaffney

Age: 50

Now: Chief operating officer, Havas Advertising's MPG USA

Challenge: To build MPG, a European-based company, into a top media player in the U.S.

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