Media All-Stars 2004

jennifer bolnick is known for delivering efficiencies, maximizing bonus activity, preserving strict posting guarantees, maintaining socially responsible guidelines, and understanding the impact that placement has on the delivery of a message.

Bolnick, senior out-of-home buyer for MediaCom and this year’s Media All-Star for Out of Home, is also known for her expert juggling skills.

“Jennifer has two bosses, so she has to answer to John Connolly [MediaCom’s senior vp, out-of-home], who is constantly pushing her on pricing,” says Bret Itskowitch, director of strategic integration and entertainment at MediaCom. “But she also answers to somebody like me, who wants to pay attention to implementation, and Jennifer always does that.”

“Many buyers across all media get so focused on the numbers that they lack perspective,” he adds. “But I’m pushing them: What’s this message going to look like in this particular spot? Can we move this? Can we build out these three feet? And Jennifer is fantastic at living up to those expectations and ultimately answering to two bosses with very different guidelines.”

Her other boss, Connolly, says of Bolnick: “She’s intelligent and enthusiastic about everything she does. She has a real knack for meeting client needs with creative out-of-home solutions and then delivering the media on very favorable terms for all.”

Marie Casimir, manager of media planning/buying strategy at Bolnick’s client GlaxoSmithKline, agrees. “Jennifer goes above and beyond for our out-of-home efforts,” says Casimir, recalling a recent campaign featuring Magic Johnson for Glaxo’s HIV drug Combivir that appeared in several cities, among them Chicago. A team from Glaxo, including Casimir, showed up in Chicago to meet with Bolnick and scout sites, only to discover that Bolnick had arrived long before them and had done her homework.

“I thought that was tremendous,” Casimir says. “The problems in the market had already been identified, and she got back to us quickly with answers and solutions. She’s a joy to work with, always up to speed with what’s going on in a market and knowledgeable about the opportunities with a brand.”

Bolnick is regarded as someone who identifies problems, then stays on top of them until they’re resolved. Casimir cites the time when Bolnick discovered that several doctor’s offices and clinics were not posting Glaxo’s ads properly. Bolnick negotiated make-goods and followed through to make sure the job was getting done right.

Casimir points out that while the entire team at MediaCom parent Grey Advertising is great, out of home is not the biggest part of the agency’s business. “So, this level of service is so nice to see,” she says. “Even though it’s not a lot of their business, they cater to us as if it’s all they’re doing.”

Bolnick, whose other clients include Diageo (which encompasses liquor brands like Johnny Walker and Tanqueray), Dyson and Nokia, has been in the advertising business since 1998, when she started as an assistant media planner in out-of-home at Ogilvy & Mather and worked on the Kodak and Maxwell House accounts. She briefly went to Carat in a broadcast network buying post, working on the Pfizer account, but returned to her “true calling” in 2000, joining MediaCom’s out-of-home group.

“I really want to see that clients are educated about what out-of-home can do,” Bolnick says of the $5 billion industry that encompasses messages on billboards, bus stops and building facades. “It’s an impactful, effective medium and it can be used for mass reach, but it’s also targeted. So many think of out-of-home as just bulletins, but there are so many place-based options out there and so many options coming into the out-of-home arena in general. I want a client to know what is out there, what we can do for them, and that people are going to see their message.”

Bolnick says out-of-home has been bolstered by the deeper level of market research on the medium being delivered by Arbitron, and Nielsen Media Research, which is owned by Mediaweek parent company VNU. “They’re showing how out-of-home is effective and, even more so, they’re defining who is actually seeing the ad. This is going well beyond traffic.”

Technology is also changing the out-of-home market, she points out, with eye-popping, ever-changing digital billboards popping up from Times Square to Sunset Boulevard. “People are constantly on the go now, and that’s why out-of-home is effective,” says Bolnick. “People are going to pick up their kids from school, going to the dry cleaner, going to the movies, and we’re reaching them as they travel from place to place.”

Bolnick, a Manhattan resident who likes to take her morning run along the busy but advertising-free FDR Drive, admits: “You can’t build everywhere; there are still restrictions.” But those restrictions, for the large part, have been a mere annoyance, rather than an obstacle to Bolnick getting out her clients’ messages. “It depends on the market, but it really hasn’t been an issue for us,” she insists. Convincing advertisers is becoming less of a chore, too, with marketers such as packaged-goods companies using more and more out-of-home.

A bigger problem are the short lead times “when you need to be out on the street quickly and get it done,” she says. “It’s something we face a lot.” But, she adds confidently, “We can turn it around, whatever it may be.”

Bolnick tells of a recent situation when a client shifted its focus at the last minute, deciding to home in on business professionals. So, inside of just one month, Bolnick was able to work with the creative and production teams on the account to get out-of-home placements in airports in 10 markets. “Communication is the key,” Bolnick says.

As for creative, Bolnick says it can be a challenge getting ad people into an out-of-home mind-set. “You have to make sure they’re not just using print or TV creative but developing out-of-home creative,” she says.

Out of home, she believes, is an effective, and affecting, medium for any brand catering to any constituency. “If a brand might want to target teens or tweens, we can do that,” she says. “If an advertiser wants to target adults 18-plus, we can do that. African Americans, Hispanics… It’s endless. It can all be done effectively with out-of-home.”