The Latest Leverage Play

Matt Feinberg, vp and manager of national radio at Zenith Media, once described integrated-media sales pitches as “five guys with five binders.” Clear Channel Communications owns enough media to send in at least that many, but instead it is hitting the streets with a single multiplatform pitch. Called simply Clear Channel Group Sales, the dedicated sales division represents the latest attempt by a media company to leverage its clout across media properties.

Managed by Mike Agovino, president of Clear Channel Radio Sales, CCGS was conceived in November when Katz Media reorganized its rep business around Clear Channel, its owner and biggest client. Four months later, CCGS is fully staffed with 25 dedicated sales executives, who have quietly hit the street over the past few weeks meeting with advertisers and agencies such as The Media Edge, Zenith Media and Starcom.

Unlike Viacom Plus or ABC Unlimited, which are driven by a national TV buy, CCGS’ pitch is simple: national reach through local execution. The company brings to bear its status as the leading out-of-home media company, with 1,170 radio stations; the largest outdoor company in Eller Media; the largest live- entertainment group in SFX; Premiere Radio Networks; 18 TV stations; and an Internet division.

“The other media companies are ad market share plays. They negotiate a price for all the media. Our approach is different,” explained Agovino. “This is a national play through local radio in 243 markets integrated with outdoor and an event-a concert, a motor sport, even a golf tournament.”

“Buyers have to look at the Clear Channel approach differently because it’s a single entity rather than individual elements coming together,” said Kevin Gallagher, vp and media director for Starcom. “Instead of 30 buyers buying 30 spot markets, we could talk to CCGS about combining markets. People have done unwired buys for years, but when you talk about adding a merchandising or marketing element to the equation, then it really becomes something more.”

So far, CCGS has closed more than five deals, valued between $200,000 and $1 million, covering 20 markets. It currently has a proposal out to a major movie studio that wants to market its new film to teens. CCGS’ package uses its Top 40 radio stations in more than 50 markets, and it includes contesting in which listeners can win tickets to the movie, attend the movie premiere with the movie’s star actor and win a trip to the set of the star’s next movie. For another advertiser, which the company declined to identify, the group was able to secure a foursome in Michael Jordan’s golf tournament through SFX’s representation of some 650 athletes.

“We are everywhere advertisers are trying to sell goods or services. Some advertisers are focused on big markets, some on smaller markets, and some on both. But no company has a full portfolio to nationally reach all-size markets,” said Erik Hellum, executive vp of CCGS, who reports to Agovino. The next-largest radio-oriented media groups, in number of markets, are Cumulus Media with 49, Citadel Communications with 48 and Infinity with 43.

Agencies are intrigued but are still grappling with internal organizations that compartmentalize the media. Bonita LeFlore, executive vp and director of local broadcast for Zenith Media, said she has asked CCGS to put a proposal together for one of her clients, but she and her media-buying colleagues at the agency will have to take it apart and look at each element separately. “We still have to be accountable for costs and value. If combining different elements allows us to take on additional added value because of the dimensions of the package, that sweetens the deal.”

“It’s definitely new turf. We’re walking through the jungle cutting down the trees,” said Agovino.