Cable advertising has a new pitchman to lead the industry's effort to steal national and local ad dollars away from broadcast. Veteran media buyer Sean Cunningham, most recently executive vice president and managing director for ad agency Universal McCann/New York, will join the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau in mid June as president and CEO.
He takes over for outgoing chief Joe Ostrow, who will continue to consult.
Coming from the buy side, Cunningham, 42, is familiar will both cable's selling points and its challenges. Still, he contends there's never been a better time to join up with the cable cause.
"I've touched nearly all major categories of sophisticated advertising and marketing," he said. Cable networks, he added, "are far more than just the most powerful brands in [television]. They are some of the most powerful brands in American marketing."
He says he's eager to lead the CAB campaign for parity with broadcast networks and stations. On a national basis, cable channels are fighting the ever-increasing CPM gap with broadcast networks. Local operators are striving to poach money from local stations and face an aggressive counterattack from the Television Bureau of Advertising.
On both levels, he contends that cable offers more than just reach and eyeballs. "The beauty of cable is how it connects with consumers' hearts and minds. Reach and eyeballs are just the price of entry."
Cunningham had been running Universal McCann's New York office since 2000, overseeing a shop with $6 billion in billings and 165 buyers and planners. Previously, he was executive vice president and media director for Interpublic's Lowe Lintas division.
His experience with buying and planning was particularly appealing to the CAB's board of directors, which led the search. "The marketplace is changing, and he understands the agency mentality and the way networks are consolidating and operating," said Comedy Central President Larry Divney, who sits on the board.
Cunningham is the CAB's fourth president since the organization's founding in 1981. Ostrow took the post in 1994. Before him, Thom McKinney (1991-1994) and Bob Alter (1981-1991) headed the CAB.
According to filings, Ostrow earned $420,000 in the post in 2001.