Player Profile: Jarvis's new MediaCom job puts exec in swim of things

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"In a world swimming with data we've got a guy who can do more than just float," said Jon Mandel, co-managing director of Grey Global Group's MediaCom Worldwide, New York.

He's speaking of Tony Jarvis, the company's new senior VP-director of strategic insights, who is a research legend and also happens to have a well-known breaststroke. A former British Olympic swimming captain, Mr. Jarvis still competes against major-league swimmers in masters events, and he also puts up with a lot of wisecracks from his big-time colleagues.

Prior to joining MediaCom in November, Mr. Jarvis was senior VP-director of strategic information at CTN Media Group. CTN, which stands for College Television Networks, owns publications and programming aimed at college-age youth. Mr. Jarvis was in charge of media and marketing research data, systems and support teams for the company's divisions. Before CTN, Mr. Jarvis was VP-media services at the Stamford, Conn., office of Millward Brown, the research company owned by WPP Group.

He also was president of his own research firm, Jarvis, Sherman & Jarvis, which he started in Toronto in 1981. His sole partner, Sherman, was his 150-pound Newfoundland dog. "When I decided to go out on my own I tried to come up with a company name," Mr. Jarvis said. "I was sitting at a breakfast table and my dog put his face on the table. That was it, Sherman and Jarvis."

Along with his good humor, Mr. Jarvis enjoys a reputation as a developer of marketing media databases and systems. He has appeared at many forums, discussing such topics as "To Prototype or Not to Prototype," and "Beyond Adults 18-49," topics he addressed at an Advertising Research Foundation conference last fall. But no matter how arcane his investigations, Mr. Jarvis still manages to talk turkey.

"We needed somebody who could speak to a network buyer in network buyer language and talk about fusion and all those funny words I was supposed to learn in statistics class," Mr. Mandel said. "Tony can cut across all of those worlds. He knows the nits and grits that researchers get their jollies talking to each other about, and he can put it into language and information that we lowly media buyers can understand."

Mr. Jarvis is leading the charge in data fusion. "Fusion has really been the `F' word in America," said Mr. Jarvis, who is attempting to take two databases that have common elements and put them together to create one new database with the richness of each. For example, Mr. Jarvis is exploring the possibility of fusing Nielsen Media Research's TV database with Mediamark Research's publication database.

"Wouldn't it be kind of nice to have one database to compare "60 Minutes" on TV for luxury buyers and see how that stacks up in, say, Architectural Digest?" Mr. Jarvis said. "If you fuse the two, it would give you the opportunity to have product and lifestyle target groups evaluating the latest television ratings and also it would give you an insight into what the real duplication is in Architectural Digest."

Mr. Jarvis succeeds Helen Johnston, who retired as research director at MediaCom after 40 years there. "She is the grand dame of the media business," said Mr. Jarvis.

Mr. Jarvis has been given the green light to hire staff and "build the department in his image," Mr. Mandel said. "Tony is not just going to serve MediaCom in good stead but he will also serve the industry in good stead. I think he is a tremendous mind and a tremendous leader."

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