Donna Salvatore Negotiates $300 Million Cross-Media Deal

By Published on .

NEW YORK (Ad Age Global) -- For someone who just negotiated the biggest cross-media deal ever, Donna Salvatore is remarkably relaxed and composed.

Her office on the 14th floor of MediaVest USA's New York headquarters is spotless. There's not a paper on the sleek modern desk, and the soft lighting creates the feeling of a living room rather than the workplace of the CEO of a top media agency. On the walls of her office are candid photographs she took of her two young children.

P&G and Viacom
What's clear is that Salvatore's no brash media power player. Her style seems to be about putting people at ease, and listening to what they have to say, rather than trying to impose her own views. That's possibly why she was the right person to be in the middle of the two-year negotiation between Procter & Gamble and Viacom which in late May saw them seal a $300 million cross- media deal.

The agreement will see P&G advertise across 12 Viacom properties including CBS, MTV, VH1 and syndication divisions like King World.

The initial idea sprang from a meeting between Viacom president and chief operating officer Mel Karmazin and Bob Wehling, P&G's global director of marketing. Salvatore shared her thoughts on the deal structure and set some of the objectives - important input since she has worked on P&G business since 1984.

$986 million TV spend
Under the terms of the deal, P&G, which spent about $986 million on cable and network TV advertising in the U.S. last year, will now spend more on Viacom networks, but the deal is not likely to change the packaged goods marketer's overall TV spend. P&G has said it will focus this year on major brands like Tide and Pantene -- big TV advertisers. The marketing pact could also expand to Viacom's outdoor advertising and radio properties, its Blockbuster video division and spread out globally.

Big as it is, it's not the first mammoth media deal Salvatore has expertly negotiated. After taking over as chief executive of MediaVest USA last spring, Salvatore led the team that won Kraft's $800 million North America media account in December. And although she says she wasn't "in the middle of" SMG's winning pitch for the record-breaking $2.9 billion General Motors account last year, MediaVest USA played a large role in the coup.

This was no small potatoes for SMG, which had only come together as an organization a few months before the GM pitch, combining the media operations of Leo Burnett and D'Arcy. In most cases, though, MediaVest and Starcom, led by Renatta McCann, will pitch separately for business because they're being managed by parent Bcom3 as two separate brands.

Took top job
Now 47, Salvatore started her career in NW Ayer's national TV department in 1978, and moved to Benton & Bowles in 1981. When the agency spun off its media department to form TeleVest, Salvatore was named to the management committee and Irwin Gottlieb became CEO. After Gottlieb left to create MindShare, MediaVest had a series of acting CEOs, but when the Starcom deal went ahead, it was Salvatore who eventually took the top job.

"There are a lot of people heading up media agencies today with similar approaches, and the challenge is to distinguish yourself, brand your service and tell the community what makes MediaVest different," she says.

Salvatore is refreshing; she's candid about the difficulties of distinguishing media brands in the market, admitting that "everyone will say the same thing," about their brand.

She says MediaVest stands for "taking the time to develop media assets that will provide clients with a competitive advantage...and the relentless pursuit of value." It's a line that has clearly worked with clients.

Chasing new business
She says that much of MediaVest's growth has come from winning business from existing clients, so another challenge of hers is to get the agency out there to pursue new business.

"I've only been involved in five new business pitches in 20 years. We're somewhat novices at new business, but we did well in our first foray, which was winning the Kraft account," she says.

But the buzzwords these days are "cross-media" and "cross-platform," and MediaVest is working on P&G-like deals for several clients, though Salvatore won't say which ones. She's got a very strong point of view on the best way to negotiate such deals. "Other agencies have set up cross-media units, but I think separating out a group creates a disconnect in the media solution," she says.

"Everyone here that works on clients knows how to negotiate deals, and they are the people who have a working knowledge of those clients. If you're the head of a division (such as print services), chances are you're not intimately involved with what each client needs."

Salvatore is well aware of the challenges she faces in her mission to create the new, assertive MediaVest - and she's going to need all her creativity and charm to get there.

Most Popular
In this article: