Kanefsky Keeps Cautious Eye On Economy

MPG exec VP braces for redoing upfront deals

Why This Matters

At a Glance: MPG

Jason Kanefsky:
Executive VP/Head of Strategic Investments

Based in:
New York. Also offices in Boston, Chicago, Miami, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Minneapolis

Key clients:
Sears Holdings Corp., Dannon, Fidelity, LVMH, Carnival Cruise Lines

2009 billings:
$2.7 billion

(Source: RECMA)

Jason Kanefsky likes to keep one hand on the remote
and one wary eye on the economy. The executive
VP and head of strategic
investments at media agency MPG
participated in last spring’s upbeat and
quickly concluded upfront market for
national television. But if most buyers
saw the early close of upfront business
as a good reason to calmly take time
off over the summer, Kanefsky saw it
as anything but.

“I’m going to be redoing all these
deals for the next three months,” he says,
noting that changes in the economy will
mean a change in the TV market.

“What the economy looked like in
May is very different from what it’s going
to look like in September,” Kanefsky
says. “It’s going to be much worse.”
During the upfront, he adds, “We were
spending like drunken sailors.”

Consumers now look like they’ve
stopped spending and are paying down
their current debts. Businesses, meanwhile,
are bracing for a possible period
of deflation, with prices going down.

“That’s a more difficult time for advertisers,”
Kanefsky says. “And that’s why
people hate the upfront. It’s not because
they don’t like buying inventory in advance,
it’s that they don’t like [doing it]
in an economy they’re not certain of.”

Kanefsky considers reading the
economy a key part of his job. “If
advertising demand is directly correlated to [Gross Domestic
Product], then it’s my job,” he says. “Everything else is silly.
Supply and demand is nice, but if you can’t get a focus on
where the economy is going, then you can’t build any kind of
intelligent model that says this is what the market should be.”

With Kanefsky’s belief that the
economy is souring, he thinks there’s
a chance deals can get redone before
his clients’ commercials air—even if
he’s the only one in the market feeling
that way.

In the upfront, buyers reserve commercials.
Those holds turn to real orders
on a quarter-by-quarter basis, when clients
have options to send back spots.

“I don’t think [the networks] expect
that everything they sold will go to order,”
Kanefsky says. “The concern for
them is they sold deep and if options
come in, who’s going to pick up the

“Hopefully, the economy gets better
and we all sing our way through it. But I don’t see it. Nobody can
tell me why the economy will get better on the consumer side.”

Kanefsky doesn’t consider himself
a pessimist so much as a realist. And
current tumult aside, he really likes
his job.

As a kid growing up in Queens,
N.Y., he remembers reading TV ratings
in the New York Post. “I wanted
to know where my favorite shows
ranked and why certain shows did
better than others,” he remembers.
“My parents always said to me, ‘What
are you going to do for a living? Watch
TV?’ And I said, ‘If there’s a job like
that, that would be spectacular.’”

While attending Queens College,
he got an internship at NBC and saw
the full picture of what agencies and
networks do. “I didn’t know there
were people who actually bought
media for a living,” he says. That was
when he realized his career path.

“I didn’t fall into this. It was a predetermined
route,” he says. “I ended
up where I wanted to be, which is
a blessing; most people don’t get to
do that.”

Kanefsky feels that way despite
long hours that leave little time for
anything other than coming home
and spending time with his family.
He and his wife have two daughters,
14 and 11.

“I’ll call the house to see how loud it is,” he says. “If there’s too
much yelling, I’ll just stay [at the office] and wait it out.”

E-mail comments to jlafayette@nbmedia.com
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