When Ben Price worked at Xerox, his wife, Anthy, a film marketing exec, would bring home ad trade magazines. “I found them a lot more interesting than reading the financial insurance and office machine journals that I’d bring home,” says Price, now executive VP for ad sales at Discovery Communications.
He got a sales job at Turner Broadcasting, then moved to Discovery where he’s been for 25 years, building deep relationships in the Los Angeles ad community.
Price now splits his time between Los Angeles and New York, a far cry from Lake City, S.C., a small town nowhere near a lake or any other body of water. His grandfather was chief of police and his dad owned the funeral home. He was one of nine children, which colleagues say helped him grow up unflappable.
“He’s effortlessly good at what he does,” says Mike Sheldon, CEO of Deutsch North America. “There are not too many people that can have that many balls in the air and still make it look easy.”
Price’s family moved to Oceanside, Calif., when he was 9 (good timing because he met Anthy at 11, though they didn’t date till two years after he graduated from nearby San Diego State).
Xerox had recruited on campus and offered Price a position analyzing risky jobs. Later a Turner exec invited the Prices to a football game and asked if he’d be interested in media sales. “I said ‘Why not?’” Price recalls. “I’ve stayed with the business ever since.”
He’s made quite an impression over the years. “He represents stability with forward thinking. He is a fierce negotiator, really tough, which annoys me, but he always over delivers on our media and promotional deals,” says Stefanie Napoli, executive VP, worldwide media at Sony Pictures, who’s known Price for 26 years. She recalls Price arranging a special Mythbusters that looked at elements of Sony’s Green Hornet film.
“The first thought that comes to mind is integrity,” says Sheldon, who worked with Price on turning a Volkswagen into an underwater cage for Discovery Channel’s Shark Week. “That comes from really understanding the client’s brand. You never feel like anything they’re doing will be at your expense.”
Discovery ad sales president Joe Abruzzese credits Price for building incredible external relationships. “Agencies and clients know he’s working 51% for them and we know internally Ben’s working 51% for us,” he says.
A lot of West Coast ad business comes from movie studios owned by other media companies. “Ben has to work harder because, when you think about it, all the money we get is really coming from one of our competitors,” Abruzzese says. “He’s got such great contacts. There’s no meetings we can’t get.”
Despite a challenging ad market, Price thinks this is a great time in the business. “It’s a pivotal time with so much being driven by tech data, analytics, the ability to target, measure ROI,” he says. “But none of that replaces the importance of relationships and trust.”
Monica Karo, CEO of OMD U.S., says she became very close with Price when her husband’s late best friend, Mark Goodman, who worked for Price, was diagnosed with non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“The two people that were by Mark’s side were Ben and my husband,” Karo says. A group of Goodman’s friends play golf in his memory a few times a year. “It’s not the best of circumstances but that’s when you see what somebody is like,” she says.
At the same time Goodman was succumbing to cancer, so was Price’s longtime assistant. More recently, one of Price’s brothers passed away. He volunteers and raises money for cancer research. “City of Hope is really important to me,” he says.
Also important are Price’s daughters. One is a producer working on Survivor, the other an NBC page working on Dateline. “Anthy and I watch and see their names pop up in the credits on these shows. It’s pretty exciting,” he says.