Pam Zucker: An Integrated Vision for Television

Feb 9, 2004  •  Post A Comment

With growing fragmentation of network audiences, Procter & Gamble, like other television advertisers, was searching for new ways to do business in the spring of 2000, when Pam Zucker, an executive at MediaVest Worldwide, helped come up with a plan. Under Ms. Zucker’s leadership P&G struck a massive $300 million-plus annual media and marketing deal with Viacom that touched on all areas of the media company, from CBS, MTV and BET to radio, outdoor, online and other divisions.
The idea was to get P&G’s message to viewers in different ways, above and beyond traditional spot advertising.
That groundbreaking agreement, which has been renewed every year since, remains the springboard for dozens of unique strategies that have helped Viacom totally revamp its media and entertainment marketing, culminating recently with major deals involving the Super Bowl and a special “Survivor” campaign set for this spring. (See related story.)
All of which begins to explain why TelevisionWeek has named Ms. Zucker, 37, its Media Buyer of the Year.
In typically modest fashion, Ms. Zucker, whose brother is Jeffrey Zucker, president of the NBC Entertainment, News and Cable Group, defers credit for her success to MediaVest and its penchant for innovation. “What MediaVest really believes is that media is part of the strategic pie to communicate with consumers,” she said. “It’s what MediaVest is trying to do today with their whole integrated vision. I’m kind of an example of a person who has lived that vision.”
Ms. Zucker’s vision has been put to the test many times. Last year, for example, MediaVest got an unusual request from executives for Tide, a P&G brand, that focused on something deceptively simple-dirt.
“They asked us, can you implement a strategy called `point of dirt’?” Ms. Zucker said. “I said to them I don’t know how to implement `point of dirt’ in TV.” But she persevered and ultimately helped the MediaVest team come up with a promotion for ABC’s Friday night show “America’s Funniest Videos” involving a Tide-sponsored segment called Dirtiest Rotten Kids.
“We had people send in videos for those kids that got the dirtiest,” Ms. Zucker said. “I think if you gave people of traditional national broadcast background a goal of `point of dirt,’ they would stare at you.”
Those who sit across the desk from her-the network sellers-seem to agree. “I really would consider her a true visionary,” said Lisa McCarthy, executive VP of Viacom Plus. “She comes from the thinking, `What else is possible?’ even though it’s never been done.”
“She’s a great thinker,” said Joe Abruzzese, president of advertising sales for Discovery Networks U.S. “She’s receptive to new ideas. She has these idea meetings where people just talk about ideas. Not too many people do that-only marketing executives. She lives and breathes P&G.”
Network advertising executives said Ms. Zucker never uses her association with her brother, even in passing. “To her credit, never, ever does that enter into negotiations,” Mr. Abruzzese said. “She never brings it up. She is totally independent. “
Though Ms. Zucker and her brother represent companies on either side of the traditional advertising-TV programmer table, they keep business between them at arm’s length. “We’ve been in a handful of meetings,” Mr. Zucker said, “but we don’t really talk shop together.”
Ms. Zucker is a 16-year veteran who has spent her entire professional life at MediaVest. She began as a media planner in 1988 working on such accounts as Masterfoods, P&G, Kraft, the Bahamas Board of Tourism and Citizen Watch before deciding in 1995 that she was ready for something new. Ms. Zucker wanted a really big, unscripted challenge, and her agency, MediaVest, gave it to her in the early ’90s.
“There were no rules, no laws, no foundation,” she said, recalling the learning curve when she was promoted to media director of MediaVest/ DMB&B Russia and sent to Moscow. “[Russia] started allowing [TV] advertising in 1993. You had a total blank slate of how you were to do things. I had a CEO there who said, `Everything is difficult and anything is possible.”’
Ms. Zucker made things happen in Russia. She extended the agency’s client roster to other countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States, opened up new offices and established media advertising strategies.
“I was doing business in places I never heard of,“ she said. “I was learning that [sometimes] you were going to bang your head against the wall. Taking in that kind of philosophy helped me.”
Then MediaVest gave her another major challenge. She returned home in 1998 as senior VP and agency of record director on the P&G account. Until then, P&G, the second-biggest TV advertiser in the United States, had been known as a savvy advertiser that could get the lowest-priced media-a “bottom feeder,” according to media executives. The company hadn’t struck any cutting-edge entertainment programming deals like those of its flashier consumer-product counterparts Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. Its commercials were generally regarded as standard, even dull, creative efforts.
Then in the spring of 2000 Ms. Zucker helped put together the Viacom deal, which went on to become one of the few, if not the only, major multimedia platform deals for a specific client to be repeatedly renewed.
“She was not only involved in the inception of it but has really worked with P&G over the last three years to grow and to expand it every year,” said Laura Desmond, CEO of MediaVest USA. “She is very smart, very committed, has tons of energy and cares deeply about the client.”
One of Ms. Zucker’s big influences was Donna Salvatore, former CEO of MediaVest Worldwide, who died suddenly last year shortly after announcing she would be leaving that post. Ms. Salvatore was senior executive on the P&G account for many years-a job similar to the one Ms. Zucker does now.
“Donna was an incredible woman who worked incredibly hard and broke barriers,” Ms. Zucker said. “She showed people the necessary balance between work and family. Donna is an inspiration. I don’t think I’ll ever fill her shoes, but I’ll always have something to aspire to.”
Working with Procter & Gamble and Viacom, Ms. Zucker and MediaVest helped develop branded entertainment strategies-using product placement and other techniques to make the marketer’s name closely identifiable with specific television programs.
“People are approaching entertainment marketing from a limited sense today,” Ms. Zucker said. “What we are trying to do is approach it from a holistic sense. How can we connect with our customers in a deeper way?”
As a result of Ms. Zucker’s and MediaVest’s efforts, P&G’s revenues have grown more than 40 percent during the past two years alone.
Discovery Deal
Ms. Zucker cemented a wide-ranging media platform deal for P&G with Discovery Networks in 2002. It was like the Viacom deal, but on a much smaller scale, and was engineered by Discovery’s Mr. Abruzzese. He put together the initial Viacom/P&G deal when he was president of advertising sales for CBS.
“She was instrumental when we put together the deal with Viacom and very instrumental with Discovery,” Mr. Abruzzese said.
Part of the Discovery deal has the talent in the hit program “Trading Spaces,” on Discovery’s TLC Network, using the Swiffer, the new P&G duster mop. “We had a two-year ongoing relationship that started as traditional entertainment marketing approach, where it was about product placement,” Ms. Zucker said. “It has expanded to in-store effort and retail extensions, using the talent to help promote the product in other [off-air] ways.”
Though Ms. Zucker has little spare time, she said she likes to travel, hike, decorate her Westchester, N.Y., home and play on the agency’s softball team. “I’m a pitcher,” she said. “I like to be in control.”
She also likes to watch television. Unlike some media agency executives who express concern over the proliferation of network reality shows, Ms. Zucker prefers them, which is no surprise, really. Li
ke the most daring moves in her own career, reality shows are unscripted.
“I like watching the human relationships play out,” she said. “I like to see what motivates people and how they interact under different circumstances. The unknown is always possible.”
Vital Stats
Place of birth: Miami
Date of birth: July 20, 1966
Client: Procter & Gamble
P&G’s TV 2002 billings: $1.4 billion (Source: TMS Intelligence/CMR)
Who knew? Competed against her brother, NBC President Jeffrey Zucker, in tennis while growing up in Miami.