MEDIA HEADLINER: OMD fills top post at last with CNN client service champion - Uva's most urgent task will be to attract new business for OMD, Ian Darby reports

The appointment last week of Joe Uva as the president and chief

executive of OMD sent out some very clear signals. First, that Omnicom

is serious about media in the US; OMD will now move to offering a

complete planning and buying service. Second, that in hiring a

heavy-hitting executive with great connections in the entertainment

industry, it has selected someone who can take OMD well beyond

traditional media buying.

Uva comes to OMD from Turner Broadcasting Sales, a division of AOL Time

Warner. John Wren, the chief executive of Omnicom, says that he hired

Uva to bring an "aggressive dimension" to OMD.

Until now OMD, the largest media buyer in the US, has primarily handled

media buying for clients of the Omnicom networks BBDO, DDB and TBWA. Key

Omnicom players such as Allen Rosenshine, the chairman of BBDO, and

Keith Reinhard, the chairman of DDB, have resisted handing over media

planning and research to OMD, created in the US earlier this year.

Uva, 46, has the job of driving forward OMD in North America, but he

will also run the network globally. His appointment greatly simplifies

OMD's reporting structure, with just three men (Uva, Colin Gottlieb in

Europe and Mike Cooper in Asia) responsible for running the network and

winning global business.

Bringing in new clients is Uva's major task. His contacts book,

especially in Hollywood and across the entertainment business, will be

valuable to OMD. And it seems Uva is relishing the change after 17 years

at Turner.

He says: "This is an irresistible opportunity to head a company that has

the resources and commitment to compete at the leading edge of the media

world. Given the recognised leadership in branding strategy and

creativity that Omnicom agencies provide for clients, media becomes the

battleground that will determine their success and ours."

This is all very good, but if the battleground is to be media then OMD

has large battalions that are out of practice. As WPP cracked on with

the launch of a global network with MindShare, it seemed that Omnicom

was more preoccupied with squabbling between its own generals. However,

Wren sees the appointment of Uva as a major step forward. He says:

"Joe's appointment brings us the kind of dynamic, forward-thinking

leadership and organisational ability that will drive greater levels of

client service and new-business success around the world."

There was some surprise within Turner that Uva is leaving after so long

with the organisation. He joined in 1984 as an account executive and

then worked his way up to the post of vice-president for CNN Sales in

New York. He then took the global CNN sales job and then the overall

Turner sales chief role. In his early career Uva gained agency

experience as a media planner and buyer for McCann-Erickson and


Uva takes up his position in January so OMD directors in the UK are

still waiting to see what impact he will have on local markets. One OMD

insider comments: "It is an interesting choice because people expected

it to be a media agency person. Wren has done something subtle but very

important with Uva's appointment - sent out the message that OMD is not

about 'spots and spaces'."

The task for Uva will be varied. He will oversee the job that Gottlieb

and Cooper are doing in Europe and Asia. Gottlieb is putting together

the OMD Europe structure while OMD faces the issue in Asia of moving

forward through organic growth or acquisition or a blend of both. In the

US, though, Uva has been thrown something of a curveball. OMD is a huge

TV negotiations centre but will face major cultural change as it moves

to offering a full media service.

This may go some way to explaining Uva's appointment. At Turner he was

renowned as a great team builder - Uva's boss at Turner, Jamie Kellner,

praised his department and team on hearing the news of Uva's


However, Uva has to get new business in quickly. He has contacts with

advertisers and media owners that Omnicom hopes will bring instant


As one OMD source says: "Wren has become much more spurred on with

improving the media offering because he saw it was not happening fast


A key part of this comes down to new business. At the unveiling of

Omnicom's second quarter results, Wren faced a barrage of questions from

analysts over OMD's absence from major new-business lists. This is

something that is changing in Europe; OMD recently landed the massive

PSA account, and Uva's aggressive approach may well achieve the same

across the rest of the network. You don't work for Ted Turner for so

long without learning a trick or two.


1985: CNN, vice-president, sales

1990: CNN, executive vice-president, sales

1994: Turner Broadcasting Sales, executive vice-president

1996: Turner Entertainment, president, sales and marketing

1997: OMD Worldwide, president and chief executive


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