Scott Daly knows a good thing when he sees it.

Or hears it.

Moments after folks from The Wall Street Journal finished pitching Daly on buying front-page space for top client Toyota, he practically sprinted down two corridors and into his boss’s office at Dentsu America in Manhattan.

What with Daly’s abundant credibility, earned over two decades of innovative planning, it took only minutes for him to get the go-ahead. And just weeks later the Journal’s influential readership saw the first of a series of page-one jewel-box ads for Toyota Motor North America.

The weekly ads touting Toyota’s commitment to safety marked another highlight in a career-long series for Daly, who is executive vp, executive media director at Dentsu. For his work with Toyota and the Journal, Mediaweek is naming Daly its 2006 Newspaper Media All-Star. It’s an honor that does not surprise those who know Daly well.

“He’s always on the cutting edge of what’s right for our clients in any media,” says Daly’s boss, Tim Andree, CEO of Dentsu America. “He’s a very experienced, strategic problem-solver who commands great respect with our clients.”

Clients themselves agree.

“He’s … how do I put it? He’s fantastic,” says Marjorie Schussel, national manager, corporate communications, for Toyota. “When I’ve got a question about anything, when I need to know something, I just pick up the phone and call Scott and I know he’s going to be expert.”

Daly, 42, started his career working for Carat Americas’ CEO David Verklin when both were at Hal Riney & Partners in San Francisco in 1987.

Daly was a social science major fresh out of the University of California-Berkeley. Soon he was negotiating broadcast and local newspaper buys under a $30 million budget for Saturn Corp., the carmaker.

In 1991 and 1992 Daly was at Saatchi & Saatchi in San Francisco, wielding a $50 million budget for Hewlett Packard across media that included network TV, local radio and national print and business-to-business publications. Then it was on to Dentsu, where Daly helped found the West Coast office, building from scratch a full-service media department that helped to grow Canon’s printer business from $150 million in sales in 1992 to over $1 billion by 1995. Highlights included an Effie award for Canon’s “What Can You Do?” campaign.

In 2003, Daly moved to New York and now runs a 15-person media team with roughly $125 million in billings. Clients include Canon, 21st Century Insurance and NEC Corporate. And, of course, Toyota.

The carmaker has been advertising in The Wall Street Journal since 1990, and has been a client of Dentsu and its predecessor agencies for roughly as long. The overall campaign uses print, broadcast and alternative media to educate consumers about the extent of Toyota’s operations in the United States. It is the source of those familiar ads that point out the number of jobs created by Toyota in the United States (386,000) and the number of manufacturing plants in this country (10).

For the Journal, Daly and Dentsu decided to approach Toyota’s community investment from a slightly different angle, using the jewel boxes to talk about safety. For example, one of the ads depicts an overhead highway sign that lists things that can cause a distraction while driving (answers: cell phone, grooming, talking to friends and eating). It invites readers to visit toyotateendriver.com.

“It starts a dialogue with the Wall Street Journal audience,” says Toyota’s Schussel. “Our overall campaign is about our corporate citizenship, and our commitment to safety is part of it.”

Daly says that when the opportunity arose, he instantly recognized the value of engaging the Journal’s affluent, opinion-leading readership. Andree, his boss, quickly agreed. “Scott’s recommendations on our clients’ business really run the show and carry the weight,” Andree says.

“Instantly we wanted to do it,” says Daly. “But it’s not that easy.”

The Journal began offering the A1 space to leading advertisers when the fiscal year was half over for Dentsu and Toyota. Daly got the offer in early July, and the ads began appearing just after Labor Day. In essence, Dentsu needed to pitch Toyota, commit to more than a year of A1 space, and to come up with fresh creative—all in a matter of weeks. “Basically we had two months,” Daly says. “Nothing moves that fast.”

But Dentsu did. Toyota bought in. The creative team soon produced not one, but five jewel boxes to run in rotation (and more creative is in process). Those working on the project include Ron Rosen, executive vp, executive creative director; Aaron Frisch, associate creative director/art director; Neal Gomberg, senior vp, group creative director; James Rogala, art director; Katherine Auguston, copywriter; and Scott Singow, associate creative director.

For Daly, the ads that appear every Wednesday represent a gratifying further step in a campaign he’s helped to lead for two years. Toyota this year cracked Fortune’s Top 10 list of America’s most admired companies. Says Daly, “That’s sort of the benchmark we look at.”

Along the way, others look at Daly. “He really fights to get us the best positioning, the best rates, the best service we can get from our media partners,” says Schussel, the Toyota exec.

Daly’s boss agrees. “This obviously is a special case,” Andree says. “But it’s not really different from what he does every day.” Todd Shields is a former Washington editor for Mediaweek.