to run a $1.6 billion local broadcast operation, one of the nation's largest, you need a broad outlook, but you really have to be a demon on details. Somehow, Cindy Clements stays on top of OMD's far-flung local buying group, with nine offices around the country buying local TV, cable and radio. She oversees 80 spot clients, including such demanding retail accounts as Cingular, Nissan and Universal Pictures; in recent months her group has picked up juicy new business from McDonald's and Pier 1. Colleagues and clients sing her praises as a smart, resourceful business person. For all those reasons, Clements has been selected by Mediaweek as this year's Media All Star in spot TV/local TV.
How do you oversee a buying group dealing with thousands of local TV and radio stations and cable systems in 211 markets? "The most important thing is the ability to multitask," says Clements. "Spot is so reactive because you never know what's going to happen on a given day. Our clients are on-air today, off-air tomorrow—especially retail clients—and we have to react instantaneously to whatever their needs are. It's just the nature of the business. It's demanding; you either love it or hate it. I love it, of course I do. It's different every day—fresh and new and challenging and exciting."
"What's amazing about Cindy," says her boss, OMD managing director Ray Warren, "is that she's not only a great leader but she's also so detail-oriented. When your biggest accounts are a wireless company, an automotive group and a movie company, it doesn't get more demanding than that. And she has everyone on the same page every day. Her presentation skills, the confidence she exudes, the knowledge she has—are all outstanding. She was instrumental in our getting the McDonald's business. I couldn't go to the meeting, but they didn't want to talk to me; they wanted to talk to Cindy.
"Sometimes it seems like she lives on an airplane," Warren adds. "I get e-mails from her at 6 a.m. and at midnight. She is this amazing combination of working mom and high-level executive."
Clements spends half her time jetting between regional offices and clients. "When you handle as many retail clients as we do, that regional structure is essential," she says. "We have anywhere from 10 to 25 local market specialists in each office, and they all know the local lingo and closely monitor the media, so they know if an anchor's changing at a newscast or a morning-radio jock is moving on." She remains deeply involved with Nissan, one of her largest (and oldest) clients; conducts weekly status meetings; and personally reviews a quarterly post-buy analysis for every account. She also oversees a dedicated unit that puts together thousands of promotions every year with local radio and TV stations.
A large part of the job lies in detail work and negotiating prowess—"Cindy's not a basher [in deal making], but she knows enough that you aren't going to get anything past her," says Warren—but Clements maintains a big-picture perspective as well.
"Strategy is more of a long-term process," she says. "We have a proprietary system, Checkmate, for helping us to understand our clients' business and how to capitalize on it so they can maximize return on investment. They're the ones who know that in Dallas, the late local news can do almost prime-time[-level] ratings, so we want them to be involved from day one in building the media plan.
"It's all about understanding our clients' needs and what they're trying to accomplish," she adds. "Some have a tonnage strategy, some have qualitative standards. Are they looking for reach, frequency, targeting? That's the beauty of local broadcast—you can do a reach buy in Chicago and a frequency buy in Dallas. We may test something in one market before rolling it out for the client to other markets. If radio gets too high, we may pull out and try cable for awhile. We're doing shifts for them proactively every single day. We've just formalized it as part of our process."
"Cindy has just sweated the details in the 150 radio markets that we buy," says George Murray, senior vp/marketing for Sterling Jewelers, which operates a dozen specialty-chain brands, including Jared and Kay. "Her team is extremely strong, and her buyers on the ground know the ins and outs of every station. They offer us a significant advantage in terms of being flexible for new store openings. And while they're always thinking of individual markets and buys, they've done things like reducing our use of rotating spots, upgrading us to better fixed positions in key markets. Cindy's a good strategic thinker who's very much driven by a sense of urgency, and that's a great combination."
Clements, 40, started in the business soon after graduating from Michigan's Ferris State University with a degree in advertising. She "didn't even know what the media business was" when she interviewed at Tracey Locke in Dallas, Clements says. Further confirming her "killer" negotiating skills, Clements took the job without even asking the salary, she sheepishly admits.
She went on to Chiat/Day in Dallas to work on Nissan, rising as the agency merged with TBWA. When parent Omnicom merged buying at OMD in 2001, she took over local broadcast. "We went from 50 local buyers to 140," she recalls. "Melding the cultures took a while, but now we're fully integrated."
When not on the road, Clements works from a home office in the Detroit area, near family who help her and her husband with their twin 8-year-old girls. "It's a catch-22," she says of working mom-hood. "I love being in the midst of the business, but I hate being away from my family. So I do a lot of day trips and I'm there for the important things."
One of the big-picture issues she's keeping her eye on is the continued rollout of local people meters in the top TV markets. "It's great because it gives us more accountability and you can react so immediately," she notes. "With diaries [in the current Nielsen system], you're dealing with ratings and demographic shifts two months after the fact, but our business moves just instantaneously these days. Now we're keeping clients abreast of changes and how it influences their costs." Another hot-button issue is Clear Channel's attempt to wean radio advertisers from 60-second spots to :30s. "Will clients change their creative?" she wonders. "Will other radio groups follow suit?"
For someone so comfortable pitching millions of dollars of business before hard-nosed clients, she is remarkably uneasy in the limelight that comes with being an All-Star. "Oh, it's killing me," she moans. "Of course, I'm so honored by the great recognition, but I don't like to draw attention to myself. I like to fly under the radar."