Optimedia CEO tops list for SNTA chief


Ad-agency veteran Gene DeWitt has emerged as the leading candidate to run the Syndicated Network Television Association as president, sources within the organization confirm.

But it's not a done deal yet. Sources say DeWitt, currently chairman and CEO of Publicis media-buying arm Optimedia, is the top choice of the hiring committee, composed of executives from Paramount, Disney and Studios USA. Warner Bros. likes DeWitt, too, sources say.

"They're still working on getting all of the member companies on board," a source at one of the pro-DeWitt companies says.

SNTA is the trade association representing national syndication advertising sales. DeWitt didn't return calls to his office. If he gets the final nod, he would succeed Allison Bodenmann, whose contract expired last year.

Choosing a new head for SNTA is central to plans make it a rival to NATPE as the lead organization coordinating future syndication conferences.

At a fractured NATPE gathering two weeks ago in Las Vegas, Warner Bros. syndication chief Dick Robertson, who led the exodus of major syndicators this year from the NATPE floor to Venetian hotel suites, proposed that syndicators hold two confabs a year: a syndication upfront for advertisers in New York in March and a show fair in November for stations in Los Angeles. Both, he said, could be run under the SNTA banner.

Under that scenario, which is by no means a sure thing, NATPE's usefulness to syndicators, stations or advertisers would be greatly reduced.

Over 36 years in the business, DeWitt served as media director for both McCann-Erickson and BBDO and formed his own company, DeWitt Media, more than a decade ago. It was acquired by Publicis in 2000 and folded into Optimedia, the company's media-buying arm.

Some found his apparent choice curious because speculation had been that SNTA members wanted someone from the ad-sales side to run the organization. Bodenmann, now with Court TV, had also spent most of her career on the buy side. And DeWitt sure doesn't need the money; sources say he earned millions from the sale of his company to Publicis.