Chief Executive Officer
Western International Media Corp.
Age: Declined to state
Dennis Holt remembers the simple days of the advertising business, back in the early 1960s when agencies were self-contained operations and agents earned flat 15 percent commissions.
That was back before there were people like him specialists.
In those years, Holt worked as a radio time salesman for KEZY(FM 95.9) in Orange County and had the idea to start a company that did nothing but buy media.
At the time, agencies would not only develop ads, but oversee their placement in newspapers, radio and televsion. To Holt, it was an inefficient system; ads were placed based more on personal contacts than on matching the best audience for the product.
In 1965, he found an investor and began U.S. Media, the world’s first media buying agency. “For a few years after I started the company, I was the most hated man in the industry,” said Holt.
He sold the company in 1969 and then founded Western International Media Corp. Now, as CEO of the world’s largest media buyer (with more than $3 billion in billings last year in the U.S.), Holt is one of the most revered men in the industry. But he also is in the process of passing on the company to a new generation of leadership namely, president and chief operating officer Michael Kassan.
“But don’t think for a minute that Dennis is anywhere near retired, as he is the most plugged-in person on the planet,” said Bradley Johnson, Los Angeles bureau chief for Advertising Age magazine.
Holt said he likens the profession of media buyer to that of a doctor, in that both need to stay current with the latest developments.
Specifically, buyers need to prepare for the Internet and other technologies that will change the nature of media and with it, media selling.
“It changes so fast that you’ve got to keep going back to school, just like a doctor, who is never done learning,” he said.