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Changing Local Habits

Jul 11, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Kevin Gallagher thinks local media needs to shake up its sleepy image and its old-fashioned ways of doing business.
Mr. Gallagher, senior VP and local activation director for Starcom USA, said while more television stations are selling space on digital channels, high-definition channels and Web sites, their sales offices also need to go digital.
“We have to bring it into the new millennium,” Mr. Gallagher said. “Local stations have more and more inventory to sell, whether it’s their digital spectrum on television with high-def channels, weather-plus channels or station Web sites. So now they’ve got all this inventory to sell and we’re still transacting business the way we used to transact business, which is just killing everybody.”
Mr. Gallagher pointed to ad sales systems such as Spot Runner and Software Media Exchange as steps in the right direction. He said they sometimes get a bad rap because they’re lumped in with auction-based systems.
“To me they don’t eliminate the negotiation process that we go through,” he said. “They just make the transaction more exact and faster. I think there will always be the human element of negotiating price, but we need a better infrastructure. And for me, those things are about the infrastructure.”
Change needs to happen on the buyer side as well.
“As local buyers, we’re not just buying 30-second spots on TV,” Mr. Gallagher said. “Newspapers, radio stations, TV stations all have Web components now and they’re bringing ideas for reaching customers on a 360-degree basis.
“Somebody has to project-manage the good idea,” he said, and that means less time to haggle over $5 on a spot or whether the rating delivered is going to be a 3.2 or a 3.0.
“We need to deliver more value, and the value is coordinating that 360-degree media rather than multiple rounds of negotiation to save a couple of bucks,” he said. “We’re starting to see some progress, and our people are genuinely excited to break the mold and do things differently, and our clients are putting more and more value on the idea versus the transactional component.”
Mr. Gallagher grew up in Forest Park, Ill., a suburb directly west of Chicago. Growing up, he wanted to be former NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer and executive produce the Olympics. “I had an interest in sports and played sports, but I wasn’t big or fast enough to make it past high school sports.”
His Olympic dreams didn’t pan out, but he stayed with media, becoming a college DJ at a radio station and joining the media department of the Leo Burnett ad agency after graduating from Bradley University in 1979.
He set up a local investment group at the Burnett media department—now Starcom—in 1994. It now places more than $500 million in local TV and radio for clients.
Mr. Gallagher is married with two children. His 21-year-old son is in college and a digital designer. “I think he’s in the right place at the right time,” he said. His 23-year-old daughter is in sales. “Not media sales,” he added quickly. “I told her to stay away from that.”
Every Monday is hockey night for Mr. Gallagher. “It’s the only thing that keeps me sane,” he said.
He plays on inline roller skates with a group of other professionals. “We call it ‘old-man hockey,” he said. “It can be physical, but mostly, the guys want to make sure they can make it into work the next day.”
Who knew: If he wasn’t in this business, Mr. Gallagher said he’d be a teacher. He likes teaching the business to younger people, which he does by helping out his local high school’s marketing class, inviting students to the agency about twice a year. He also is one of a number of Bradley alums who hosts a class taught by one of his former Bradley professors. Starcom has recruited several students in the class and has begun recruiting on Bradley’s Peoria, Ill., campus.
This article is part of TVWeek.com’s Media Planner newsletter, a weekly source of breaking news, trend articles, profiles and data about media planning edited by Senior Editor Jon Lafayette.

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