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Didn't we always do it this way?"


That's a comment Jayne Spittler makes frequently in her presentations to media trainees at Leo Burnett USA.

Ms. Spittler, VP-director of media research at the agency, heads the program that educates brand-new staffers about Burnett's proprietary approach to planning and buying media.

She's also the self-described "great-grandmother" of the trainees, who are joining Burnett during an explosion of new media options and approaches. That means the training program itself is going through substantial change.

Burnett, one of the advertising business' acknowledged media experts, is adjusting to a world that encompasses everything from traditional network TV buying to online services, integrating all possible choices into a single marketing strategy.

Ms. Spittler regularly beats her trainees to the punch by asking, "Didn't we always do it this way?"-the implication being, "It seems so logical."

And more often than not, the answer is no.

In a class on integrated communications, she tells the trainees: "You're asking, `Well, didn't you used to do this?' No. We used to think we could do everything. We'd use mass media ... and be all things to all people. The new media world has diluted those kinds of efforts. And we deluded ourselves with that strategy."

About 100 new staffers go through Burnett's media training program in a typical year. The two weeks of basic training usually are offered every quarter to new staffers in the media and client services functions. Supplementing the basic set now are two months of advanced classes ranging from account overviews to presentations on specific media.

"To some degree, the basic classes are designed to make sure the trainees have heard the terms before," Sheryl Harkins, media research supervisor and "grandmother" to the trainees, says in an interview. "For some, it will be a refresher course."

A 1980s trainee herself, Ms. Harkins says, "As the media environment has expanded, we've expanded. We've added cable, syndicated TV, new media, integrated communications classes, plus talks about retail marketing and micromarketing.

"Media people need to be aware of all that's out there. Media is getting more respect and responsibility than it used to; but the challenge is that we can no longer just advertise on the three TV networks."

One of the program's instructors is John Muszynski, senior VP-media director, who tells the group he started at Burnett as a client-service trainee but realized that he loved media and switched tracks.

"The media world has changed so much since I made the decision in 1981 that I've looked smart," he says.

Typically, Burnett's trainees start out in "the pit"-working for the media research department and being assigned proj-ects on an as-needed basis. But in the group of 15 or so young adults who completed the program this spring, most were assigned directly to an account.

Because Burnett had just won the media-buying assignment for Ameritech's $100 million account, it needed hands on deck as rapidly as possible.

During their training, the "pitsters" are bombarded with class after class of media terms and acronyms: Gross impressions. GRPs and TRPs. Reach and frequency. CPMs and CPPs. HUTs and PUTs. Shares and ratings. Unwired networks. BPA and ABC. Controlled circulation. Composition. Audience turnover. AQH. Homes passed.

Along the way, they gain at least passing familiarity with 212 Nielsen DMAs, 1,594 broadcast TV stations and 1,570 daily newspapers.

Most trainees move from the classes to entry-level positions on a specific client's business, usually as media buyer/planners. Of the 339 people in Leo Burnett USA's media department, 111 are buyer/planners.

They have a big responsibility: Burnett, for instance, last year bought $800 million in network TV, $236 million in spot TV and $121 million in syndicated TV (the nation's biggest buyer), plus $219 million in magazine advertising and $136 million in out-of-home advertising.

Senior staff teams negotiate Burnett's network and syndicated TV contracts, while buyer/planners might be doing number-crunching and competitive spending analyses. However, buyer/planners can find themselves almost immediately negotiating for spot TV time or out-of-home space.

The spring '94 group begins its training with a speech from Jack Klues, senior VP-director of U.S. media services. He paraphrases Leo Burnett's words in telling the trainees: "Our mission is to buy and plan media so effectively that our clients obtain an unfair advantage versus their competitors."

Burnett pools its clients' network TV dollars to create one massive pool to obtain leverage in negotiations. Competing shops "try to scare [our clients] by saying that we pool the dollars but give the best shows and times to our biggest clients," says Mr. Klues with a laugh. "It's not true at all."

Burnett believes several other traits distinguish its media philosophy.

The agency is clearly proud that it tries to support new media vehicles, but has its pragmatic reasons for doing so.

"Burnett likes to move fast to get in early with new magazines, and get great deals," says Carrie Stahl, media research analyst. "For instance, Philip Morris [USA] was one of the first advertisers in Details; and that's really paid off."

Media supervisor Karen Lang, describing the intricacies of syndicated TV to the trainees, says, "Clients get two things from supporting new shows: attractive pricing and incumbencies. That comes from Burnett taking educated risks about new shows."

Burnett's structure also defines its approach to media. Media staffers are both client specialists and media specialists, each working on one of 12 client-based media groups. The agency uses a lead team approach that gets media people involved in strategy from the beginning.

That's a theme Ms. Spittler and her colleagues drum into the trainees' heads.

"It used to be that we were given the client's objectives and strategy and told, `Here they are-go buy the plan,'*" she tells them. "That was the only time we were involved with the strategy. But it's just not that way any more."

Burnett's integrated communications group handles what she calls the "new tools in the media box": direct marketing, database marketing, sales promotion, micromarketing, event marketing, marketing PR.

Although the integrated group resides on a separate floor, Ms. Spittler encourages the trainees to get to know the group's specialists.

"Direct interaction between media and these specialists is a must," she says. "The lines between functions are blurring. Go to them with your ideas. Make sure you are part of the team."

Ms. Spittler reminds the trainees that whether it's a direct-mail piece, a TV commercial or a sign at a golf tournament: "It's all advertising to the consumer. We have to approach it that way, too."

That's a basic tenet of Burnett's IPAC-Integrated Planning and Communications-approach to client business. IPAC is the unifying thread running through all of the training classes (see story below).

This new approach creates broader responsibilites.

"Just because you're a media specialist doesn't mean you shouldn't know about distribution issues pertinent to your brand," Ms. Spittler says. "Good media planning depends on having a lot of information."

Some of the trainees are clearly surprised by the variety of information they're expected to absorb. Some already are working on accounts while they attend training classes, and have their own ideas about what life as a buyer/planner is like.

"Is this real world? Does this ever really get down to the buyer/planner level?" one asks in frustration.

Madelon Smith, assistant director of media research, answers honestly: "Not always. But there's a managerial commitment to integrated communications, and we're going to help make it happen."

Work flows down, Ms. Spittler adds.

"You never know when you may be working with plans that involve trade promotions or event marketing."

After a final class on evaluating media options, the trainees are asked to make a media-plan presentation to their instructors, who play the role of the client.

In the past, Burnett's trainee groups have worked up media plans for Adidas shoes and Kodak film. This year, the project brand is Fuji film, and the group is divided into three teams. By design, Burnett has its trainees work on campaigns for marketers other than its clients.

The presentations have their good and bad points, and the instructors are tough on the trainees ("I'm just not convinced by your target and media selection," Ms. Smith says in her critique of one group; "What we don't want to do at a client meeting is talk off the tops of our heads and then have the client pursue it!" Ms. Spittler says to another team).

But the teams clearly have gotten the big picture: Each discusses not only traditional media recommendations, but mentions things like trade promotions, direct mail, sign-age and movie-theater advertising.

IPAC lives.

And the trainees are on their way.

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