Turner Turns Listening Into Upfront Specialty

Forming collaborations with agencies and advertisers

Turner Broadcasting is
going into this year’s upfront
in a cooperative mood. Once
May and June arrive, Turner will still
be aggressive as ever in pushing for
broadcast-sized price increases. But before
getting to the bargaining table, it is
working hard to be easy to work with.

This cooperative spirit follows last
year’s hiring of Donna Speciale, the wellregarded
senior media buyer, and a reorganization
that allows agencies and advertisers
to access as much of Turner as they
want through a single, primary contact.

“What’s really important is that now
what Turner stands for at this point in
our evolution is, ‘we listen,’” says Speciale.
“The clients now are seeing us as
a holistic company. They want us to be
their partner.”

One example of Turner’s collaborative
sprit is a deal with media agency Zenith
for a long-term study of viewer consumption
habits in multiscreen environments.
The test, using Zenith client brands and
Turner resources including the Time
Warner Media Lab and set to continue
through this summer, is looking at how
consumers respond to shows employing
Automatic Content Recognition technology
on smart TVs in order to develop engaging
experiences and create consumer
rewards. Turner wants to set up more of
these projects during this upfront.

Turner also has a yearlong deal that
makes MillerCoors products the only
brews that are integrated into original
series on TBS and TNT. MillerCoors
also bought customized promotion
on platforms including CNN, TruTV,
Funny Or Die, NBA on TNT, Bleacher
Report and NASCAR.com.

“What they are right now is significantly
more flexible,” says SMGx chief investment
officer John Muszynski, a veteran
media buyer who has worked closely with
Turner for years. “They listen much, much
better these days. They’re better business
partners than they ever have been.”

Muszynski says Turner was already a
great partner, but, “a lot of time you’d ask
for something and what was responded
back was why they couldn’t do that.”
Now, “their first response is ‘What are
you trying to accomplish? Let me see if
I can help.’ They’re much more can-do.”

David Levy, Turner president of ad
sales, distribution and sports, reorganized
his ad sales team after longtime deputy
Linda Yaccarino left for NBCUniversal.

Speciale left MediaVest USA and was
named president of Turner Entertainment
& Animation Ad Sales, overseeing
a broader swath of networks. Under
Speciale, Turner veterans Frank Sgrizzi
and Joe Hogan were promoted to executive
VPs, with Sgrizzi in charge of TBS and
TNT and Hogan responsible for TruTV,
Cartoon Network and Adult Swim.

In its pre-upfront meetings, Turner’s
sales team is introducing clients to its programming
executives. “We’re really putting
clients and marketers much closer to
the content,” Speciale says.

With a year-round supply of content,
the idea is to put together packages that
reach consumers across networks and
across platforms, with branded entertainment
and new technology such as
second-screen apps.

“There’s going to be new products
around different types of content offerings,
different types of marketing
offerings around sync apps. Those are
things we’ll be introducing in the next
few months,” Speciale says.

“What we know is that the consumer
is using a second screen. They’re doing
something with it,” says Sgrizzi. “If us, or
anyone, could figure out a way to keep
them engaged, which we feel our sync
apps do, that’s one aspect of it. And the
other aspect is to figure out the best way
to communicate that. Through research,
that’s heightening what we can provide
and what many other folks can’t.”

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