“My mission at ICON has been to establish an expert media competency so we could work seamlessly with any agency on behalf of clients,” says Tom Bartholomew. “But I have one simple guiding principle: Before we strike any deal, I always ask the same question: ‘Is what we are about to do the right thing for the client in the long term?’” This philosophy has resulted in numerous long-term relationships with ICON, and it echoes through his team of about 100 people who acquire and manage media placements, travel and other forms of fulfillment services for ICON clients.
Mr. Bartholomew launched his career at ICON on St. Patrick’s Day 1997. Before that, he spent 10 years at Foote, Cone & Belding, where he began as a media-buying assistant for the agency’s Local Broadcast Group. By the time he left, he had risen to vice president, director of account management for True North Media (formerly known as FCB). There, he purchased media and managed national accounts, including Taco Bell, Coors, Orion Pictures, Citibank, The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. and Blue Cross & Blue Shield. While at TN Media, Bartholomew started the media account management team and the direct-response group, established the “account-specific promotion competency” and originated TN Media’s media planning department. He says, “It was a great run, but my personality dictates a need for new ideas and opportunities.”
While at TN Media, Bartholomew had worked with another barter company on the Tropicana Orange Juice account and immediately saw that the concept had merit. Around that time, he got a call from a colleague who asked him if he would consider a career in barter. “That’s where I saw my next challenge. Back then, the barter business suffered from a poor reputation. ICON was committed to turning that around. We had a chance to do things right and make a difference in the way people perceived an entire industry.”
Bartholomew joined ICON in 1997, when the company’s media placements were less than $50 million annually. It has since grown to more than $800 million. During that time, ICON has created a digital, direct response and unwired expertise to complement its national and local TV and radio, print and out-of-home departments. He was also instrumental in facilitating the integration of ICON into the Omnicom family. Using his agency understanding, Bartholomew spends a considerable amount of time educating former peers about how barter works and the benefit it can provide to their clients.
Today, Bartholomew combines his education (BA Marketing, Montclair State) with his natural talents for persuasion, relationship-building and follow-through to seek new opportunities and build creative barter solutions for ICON clients. He also volunteers his time as a board member of Young Audiences New York, an organization that provides art programs designed to educate and inspire hundreds of thousands of kids in the New York Public School System.