Tim Spengler

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A bright orange apron bearing the Home Depot logo hangs on Tim Spengler's office wall. Although home improvement is not his forte, the 36-year-old has hammered out deals for clients such as Walt Disney Co., eTrade Securities and, of course, Home Depot.

As exec VP-national broadcast of Initiative Media North America's Los Angeles network department, Mr. Spengler oversees about 70 clients of the media company's 120-plus roster. Billings for his unit alone total $1.8 billion. Over the last year, his national broadcast group won 16 new clients, including Cisco Systems, Serta mattresses and Novartis Consumer Health.

It's "part of our job," Mr. Spengler says about his 50-person team, "to be intimately involved with our clients and their objectives by understanding their brand. Once we have that down, we scour the marketplace and work with our sales vendors to find or develop what ties in with what our clients are trying to say."

For example, Initiative Media, coupled Home Depot with the Learning Channel as the "hands-on weekend" sponsor of some of the networks how-to shows. And for every day of the trading year, Initiative got eTrade a franchise position on CNBC with the opening bell entitlement.

"Right before the opening bell, there is an eTrade commercial," says Mr. Spengler, "and as they are ringing the opening bell there is an eTrade graphic on the screen with `brought to you by eTrade.' "

With that deal, "we helped build that brand to ubiquity," he says. "We got [the client] to CNBC about two to three years ago -- before the other online trading companies."

"Tim and his group have helped us stay one step ahead of the competition developing new sponsorships, new ideas each time," says Deborah Italiano, eTrade's director of advertising, citing several other media deals to prove her point.

For one, Mr. Spengler's team put together a sponsorship package through the Fox network for the 1998 World Series. "In 1999, we saw a lot of our competitors follow suit," says Ms. Italiano. "People in the financial group are watching what eTrade does and then they come and follow. [In Initiative], we have a partner in media that can be an innovator on the block."

Mr. Spengler, who has put in 15 years in the media business, says his media interest started when he was just a tot who'd cut out network logos and pin them up on his bulletin board.

"I grew up in the business in a way," he says. "My father had a senior marketing position at Bristol-Myers, so I got exposed to it at a young age and learned a little about it through osmosis."

He held early jobs at N.W. Ayer & Partners and Lowe & Partners, both New York. But in 1993, Mr. Spengler, who is set to marry at the end of this month, took a "calculated risk" to move to Western Media. "At the time it was the largest media-only company, and that appealed to me."

In this age of media consolidation where agencies are spinning off media-only companies, Mr. Spengler is glad he made his move when he did because of the experience it afforded him.

His clients are also glad he's in the position he is.

"If we need something, Tim goes out and gets it. He is very professional and doesn't beat around the bush," says Dick Hammill, senior VP-marketing and communications at Home Depot, which has several high-profile sponsorships brokered by Mr. Spengler and his team.

Some of the deals for which Mr. Hammill gives Mr. Spengler credit are the college football and Olympic deals with CBS, NBC and ESPN.

"He helped put together all that for us," says Mr. Hammill. "He puts whatever into action he has to to accomplish our goals."

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