Media Buyer of the Year: Peggy Green: Intuition, Passion Are Her Marks

Feb 28, 2005  •  Post A Comment

One day many years ago, when TelevisionWeek Contributing Editor Wayne Friedman and I were scribes for Inside Media magazine, we were talking to a TV station ad sales executive. “Hey, I’ve got something pretty wild for you guys,” he said. “Some smart buyer” at Saatchi & Saatchi, on the Procter & Gamble account, had just engineered an unwired network of the stations that were showing “Cheers” in syndication.

It was very unusual and creative, the executive said, adding, “Best for us, it’s network P&G money, not spot dollars.” It was clearly one of the most creative deals we had heard of at that time.

And who was that “smart buyer” he was talking about? Peggy Green, of course, who is indeed one helluva smart buyer. She now heads up broadcast for Zenith USA, and if anything, she’s gotten smarter and more creative over the years. Last year was stellar for both her and Zenith, and TelevisionWeek is very proud to name Ms. Green its Media Buyer of the Year for 2005.

Peggy Green’s boss at ZenithOptimedia often knows what kind of day Ms. Green is having without even asking. His office adjoins hers at the company’s New York headquarters.

“I hear laughter. I hear screaming. And if she needs something, I hear thumps on the wall,” said Rich Hamilton, CEO of Americas for ZenithOptimedia.

Ms. Green, president of broadcast for Zenith USA, said her sound effects sometimes reflect the inevitable frustration that comes with her high-powered job. “In the middle of the upfront, when I don’t like what I’m doing, I throw my shoes at the wall,” she said. “I’m venting.”

Ms. Green’s renowned passion for her work has been a major reason why Zenith Media has retained longtime clients including Toyota Motor Sales, Verizon Communications, General Mills and Schering-Plough and has recently snagged clients such as Nestl%E9; and JPMorgan Chase & Co., which helped account for more than $900 million in new worldwide billings over the past several months.

Roots in TV

Ms. Green has run Zenith’s national television division since she joined the agency in 1995. In August 2004 she became president of broadcast, overseeing both national and local television buying, which involves more than $2 billion in TV media dollars. Adding the responsibility of local TV to her job description brought her back, in a way, to her fortuitous roots in the business, she said.

“I started at Dancer Fitzgerald Sample buying TV in New York for Procter & Gamble. How great is it to work on Procter & Gamble as your first client?”

After moving through the ranks, Ms. Green was promoted to executive VP and director of broadcast at Saatchi & Saatchi advertising in the early 1990s. She also served as president of Program Syndication Services, a Saatchi subsidiary formed to produce and syndicate television programs.

Through it all, a reliance on instinct has been a hallmark of Ms. Green’s buying style. She’s known for her uncanny skill at feeling out upfront markets, either buying early for clients in really hot markets or sitting on the sidelines when the marketplace is weak.

Ms. Green has been widely characterized as an “old-time” buyer who works from the gut. But, she said, intuition goes only so far.

“Intuitively, if you know your brand and if the concept fits, the only way you are going to win is if you take a little bit of a gamble,” she said. “It’s a measured risk. I’m not saying you have risk for your entire budget.”

This strategy is not for all advertisers.

Breaking down marketers into two groups, she said there are big-budget advertisers that can more easily afford some risk, and smaller clients that must stretch their ad budgets to come up with alternative efforts. Every advertiser, no matter how big, needs to mix new and traditional strategies, she said.

“You have to do both today; the world is too competitive. Just using the traditional advertising plan doesn’t have the upside potential [it had before],” she said.

Ms. Green and her group have adapted by putting together special programming/advertising deals to benefit clients. Toyota’s longstanding halftime sponsorship of ABC’s “Monday Night Football” is a prime example. In recent years Toyota has moved to become halftime sponsor of ESPN’s NBA coverage as well.

Coming up, the automotive giant will debut as a sponsor and product integration partner in Mark Burnett’s “The Contender,” an NBC reality show about the lives of young boxers that debuts March 7.

Stellar Focus

Ms. Green’s group has been at the forefront of TV product integration deals for clients including Verizon, for which the agency inserted the bespectacled “Can you hear me now?” technician from the company’s commercials into the background of TV shows such as “Dawson’s Creek” and “Fear Factor.”

“I have never met anyone who had better instincts and also a better strategic focus at the brand level,” Zenith’s Mr. Hamilton said.

Ed Erhardt, president of ESPN/ABC Sports customer marketing and sales, put it another way: “She thinks like a client and a media planner, but she just happens to be a media buyer, which is a wonderful combination.”

Occasionally press-shy, Ms. Green offers something all clients want-a willingness to devote seemingly all of her time to their needs. In what little spare time she has, reading and sports are her diversions.

“I consider her a great colleague,” said Betsy Frank, executive VP of research and planning at Viacom’s Cable Networks, Film and Publishing. Ms. Frank, a former colleague of Ms. Green at Zenith and Saatchi & Saatchi, accompanied her last year on a trip to the Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

“Working for her, she always kept you on your toes,” Ms. Frank said. “Peggy would always find another way to look at things.”

These days, one of the things she sees differently is TV’s upfront selling period, which demands a great deal more preparation than in the past, Ms. Green said.

“The upfront is the end result of six months of hard work,” she said. “You don’t hear many war stories any longer-about how long you stayed up at night to do your deals. The industry has grown up.”


Title: President of broadcast, Zenith USA

How long in current position: Since August 2004

Primary accounts: Toyota Motor Sales, Lexus, Verizon Communications, General Mills, Nestl%E9;, Schering-Plough

Place of birth: Detroit

Who knew? Ms. Green enjoys reading “trashy novels” by authors such as Danielle Steel.