Media All-Stars 2004

descriptions of kim vasey, this year’s Media All-Star for Radio, may vary, but one word consistently is used among her clients and colleagues alike: passion. Whether she’s buying, negotiating or presenting, her enthusiasm for the medium and for her job makes an impression. “I have the best job in the world,” she says—and she means it.

As senior partner and director of radio for Mediaedge:cia for the past eight years, Vasey manages more than $200 million in network and spot campaigns placed by more than 65 buyers in eight regional offices for a long list of clients that includes Campbell Soup Co., for which her group was recognized by Mediaweek with this year’s Media Plan of the Year in Radio. Also on the client list are Computer Associates, Wrangler Jeans, Payless Shoes, Pepperidge Farms, The Vanguard Group, Met Life, PetSmart, AT&T, Volvo, Lincoln-Mercury and Jaguar. Ultimately, Vasey is responsible for all aspects of radio at Mediaedge—from quality control to pricing and promotions—as well as keeping everyone informed of the constant changes in the radio industry.

Vasey also takes on projects that aren’t necessarily part of her job, from participating in industry panels to sitting on radio industry committees such as the Radio Advertising Efflectiveness Lab and the Radio Advertising Bureau and American Association of Advertising Agencies Joint Task Force on Accountability. She’s often approached with, and rarely turns down, requests from radio groups including Clear Channel, Infinity Broadcasting and Entercom Communications wanting her to share her perspective at their sales meetings. “If anyone wants to know what’s going on in the radio business, she’s the one you call,” says Marc Guild, president of Interep’s marketing division.

Few in the industry get as much accomplished as Vasey, who starts her day at 4:20 a.m. in order to complete a two-hour commute from the farmhouse where she lives in upstate New York to her office in Manhattan, where she arrives by 7 a.m. But Vasey never complains about her grueling schedule. “You’re more organized when you have a lot to do. I have a whole routine. Sometimes you don’t get everything done, but you can get a lot done if you really focus—although there are times when I wish I could be split in two,” she says.

To many, it appears that Vasey already does the work of two. Armed with her fervor for radio and a steady flow of Starbucks, she is as much involved on the planning and creative side as she is on the buying side. She’s written jingles, created radio programming, and designed events and sweepstakes.

“If she has an idea for creative, it’s not unlike her to use a studio, [write a commercial], record it, perform it and take it to the client to show how effective radio can be,” says Jennifer Purtan, senior vp of sales for ABC Radio Networks. “She plans it, buys it and performs it. She’s radio’s best supporter.”

That’s just what Vasey did for Wrangler Jeans, which entered into radio just a couple of years ago without any creative. Vasey thought that if she created a jingle, the company would get a better idea of what radio could do for the brand.

On the train to work, she wrote the jingle. She used the ABC studios to record it and then presented it to the client. In the end, Wrangler didn’t use the jingle. But they did buy radio using another creative idea of Vasey’s: placing 10- and 15-second spots voiced by on-air talent on ESPN Radio’s Nascar and pro football programming.

“Radio has been a key part of our media buy,” says Craig Errington, director of marketing communications for Wrangler. “It broadened the brand’s appeal, increased the frequency of our plan and has hit our male, jeans-buying consumers with much more frequency that we could have with just print and TV.”

Because of Vasey’s creative approach to buying radio, it is the only medium The Vanguard Group doesn’t buy in house. She created a new feature that airs every morning on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning called The Vanguard Stock Market Report. And because the show also airs on TV, Vanguard got TV exposure as an added bonus.

“Five years ago, we were one of the few financial services using radio. It’s primarily because of her expertise and her relationships with the industry, her fair dealings and her breadth of passion for the medium that we outsource our radio buying,” says Marilyn Harvey, senior advertising manager for The Vanguard Group. “Vasey comes up with ways to use radio that are turnkey and impactful and she doesn’t ‘yes’ me as a client.”

Pizza Hut is another one of Vasey’s clients that hadn’t been a very big radio advertiser. But Vasey has made such an impression, Pizza Hut is rethinking its use of radio.

“Vasey has been able to convince us of the role radio can play in driving sales,” says Rob Boverie, director of media for Pizza Hut. “She seeks to understand our business before spouting off how we execute one way or another. She asks the right questions.We’ve increased our expenditures in radio and we’re looking at it a lot closer than we have in the past.”

“We took dollars out of TV to put into radio,” adds Mike Paradiso, vp and global media director for Computer Associates. “We spend more in radio because of her. We feel confident with her.”

Radio sellers, often at odds with buyers, love working with Vasey. She is known for seeing every seller who calls on her and always lets sellers know why they weren’t included in a buy. Her approach is to turn the buy-sell process into a collaborative—not a combative—one.

“Vasey really does create a win-win. She’s not afraid to share information with us about her client, giving us the ability to configure our assets so that we can activate our listeners for her client,” says Andy Rosen, regional vp and New York market manager for Clear Channel. “As simple as that sounds, you’d be surprised how many buyers take the old approach of no information to beat us up.”

That doesn’t mean Vasey isn’t a tough negotiator—she is. But somehow, when all is said and done, both parties feel they got what they wanted.

“It’s rare that, after a negotiation, everyone feels good about it and feels that it’s fair,” says Jim Higgins, executive vp and general manager for United Stations Radio Networks.

What comes across in everything she does is her attitude: always positive, always upbeat—and always ready with a Broadway show tune. She really does exemplify that old saying that you can catch more bees with honey than vinegar.

Says Interep’s Marc Guild: “She’s Mother Teresa and the best media person rolled into one.”

Katy Bachman is a senior editor at Mediaweek.