It's been a little over a year since Donna Speciale left the
media agency side of the business, where she was president of investment,
activation and agency operations at MediaVest, to become president of ad sales
for Turner networks TNT, TBS, truTV, Cartoon Network and Adult Swim.
Speciale says it's been a smooth transition since last
January, when she had to do a crash course in preparation for upfront meetings
that were getting underway when she came on board.
Things are a different now. Speciale is deeply indoctrinated
into the Turner culture, and after having ushered in some new ways of selling
across all Turner platforms simultaneously instead of network by network,
Speciale says she's primed for a solid and successful upfront season.
How has the sales structure changed at the Turner
networks since you joined them last January?
When I got here, there wasn't one person who oversaw all of the networks, but
the timing to do that was right. The vision David Levy [president, sales,
distribution and sports for Turner Broadcasting System] had for Turner sales
combined with my agency background was a perfect match. I was breaking down
barriers across platforms while at MediaVest. I created the video investment
group and I was managing both linear TV and digital there. The restructuring
done at Turner has created a much more holistic sales organization. Now agencies
can buy the whole Turner at the same time with me overseeing the four
entertainment networks and Greg D'Alba [president, CNN News Networks &
Turner Digital Ad Sales and Marketing] overseeing the news networks and
digital. We can sell against demos across all the networks with one buy because
we can single out the similarities of audience at each network.
How important is that to marketers and their agencies?
When I was at MediaVest, I could never get a deal done that included both a buy
for Conan on TBS and a buy on Adult
Swim on Cartoon Network. Now that's possible. If you want to reach millennials
aged 18-24, we will look across all our networks and put a portfolio together
for advertisers in one deal to target that audience. This is still in its
infancy stages. But we are trying to perfect a system where advertisers can buy
a demo across all our networks, not simply buy separate shows or networks
individually. Right now that's the way ESPN sells in the upfront. We want
advertisers and their agencies to think of buying Turner that way. The
marketplace isn't 'one size fits all.' We are changing our approach to
accommodate everyone's needs and right now, this is what advertisers want. We
are set up now to be very fluid in how we sell.
When you say you want advertisers to think of Turner
like they do ESPN, does that mean just buying demos across all the networks or
also for reaching men?
We do want them to think of Turner networks as a place to reach men. We have
lots of sports, TBS and truTV reach lots of men and we also have Adult Swim. So
I do believe we can sell our male audience against ESPN.
Did you apply the one-buy- across-all-networks process
in last year's upfront?
We started to do that because many of the agencies wanted to talk about buying
all of our networks in the same conversation and to get deals for all of them
done at the same time and we did do some of that and are planning to do it a
lot more in this upfront.
How has your transition from the media agency ad
buying side to the network ad selling side gone?
I was pleasantly surprised about how accepting Turner was in bringing me in
here and letting me work with them on evolving how they sell. But Turner was
glad to have an agency side person come aboard to offer them insight on how
agencies and marketers think and what they are looking for. Conversely, I am
still learning about all the different Turner networks from a business
standpoint and learning about Turner as an organization. At MediaVest I had to
worry about the P&G business or the Wal-Mart business. Now I have the
networks to worry about. There is a different vernacular. And once you get
inside a new company, you see a different perspective than from the outside.
How do you feel negotiating on the other side, and having
to interact with former colleagues at MediaVest and also former agency-side
I hired Christine [Merrifield, who succeeded Speciale at MediaVest] and now I
have to deal with her on the other side. She's a tough cookie. But now dealing
with MediaVest is like dealing with all the other agencies. The agency side was
excited to see me come here because they knew that I knew their needs and wants
when dealing with Turner. I also know why they want to make certain types of
buys so I am more understanding of their position and having had that agency
hat on has helped me also.
How did your advertiser clients take it when you
departed for Turner?
They weren't thrilled that I left MediaVest. But from my perspective, this move
was easier for me than when I left MediaCom and went to MediaVest. That was
worse because I left one agency and went to a direct competitor and that
ruffled some feathers at my old agency. But in my current job, I am very open
to helping all clients get the deals done that they want to get done. Marketers
today are looking at networks to be more partners than just being an outlet for
their commercials. They want us to help them build their business and grow
their business. If I can help them in that way, they will spend more money with
So you want advertisers to see Turner as more than
just a vendor?
It's no longer about networks just selling ad units. It's much more
collaborative and all of our top executives are more accessible to clients than
What role do you see analytics and different types of
audience metrics playing in the selling of TV networks today, and what is
Turner doing in that regard?
The entire advertising industry has been focusing on data and analytics. Last
January, Time Warner announced the opening of its Medialab that offers all
kinds of information like insights into consumer behavior, their media habits
and biometric testing results that we can share with our clients. We put a lot
of emphasis on that when we sell and it helps us with our multi-network and multiplatform
deals. We've been working on projects in the lab with two media agencies that I
can't identify at this point.
How will you approach the upcoming upfront?
We're going to follow the same strategy that we initiated last year because we
got good feedback from the agencies. We'll just do some fine-tuning. Last year,
we began doing road shows before the upfront presentation. This March, we'll
meet with agencies again to talk about new programming and the visions for each
network going into the upfront. We've found that the one-on-one dialogue with
each agency is definitely a good way to go before the major upfront
And how do you see the marketplace in terms of sales
Scatter ad sales have been steady for us and the exercising of first quarter
cancellation options by agencies have been minimal, maybe 2-3%. I would
characterize the marketplace right now as not robust but definitely healthy.
But how marketers buy television has changed. Many clients no longer come in
with huge chunks of scatter dollars that they place down all at once. Now the
ad dollars come in little by little at more of a steady pace. And digital has
also changed the process. More money is being spent in scatter on digital and
with digital the mindset is to by almost week to week to keep things flexible.
But we're not concerned about the upfront. We'll do well.