MBPT Spotlight: At Clear Channel, Tim Spengler Looks To Be Industry’s New Sales Force


For Tim Spengler, who started his position as president of content marketing and revenue strategy at Clear Channel Media and Entertainment this week, the switch isn’t just any move. Spengler is the most recent media agency executive to jump from the buying side of the table to the selling side.

It’s been almost a decade since Mel Berning left as president of national broadcast buying at MediaVest to become president, ad sales at A+E Networks, a position he continues to hold today. And just about two years ago, Donna Speciale left as president, investment and activation at MediaVest to become president of Turner Entertainment & young adult sales. In between, there have been a number of others who’ve made similar moves.

For Spengler, this marks the first time in a career that has spanned more than 25 years where he will be working as a media ad seller.

He began his career as a buyer in the national broadcast department at NW Ayer in 1986 before moving to Lowe and Partners Worldwide in 1991. He joined Western Media International in 1995, the year the media buying agency was acquired by the Interpublic Group, and he became senior VP and general manager for national TV buying.

In 2000, Western Media was renamed Initiative Media and Spengler rose to executive VP, director of national broadcast and then to chief activation officer, before being named president of Initiative North America. In 2012, he was named CEO of Magna Global, the strategic media investment and intelligence unit of IPG Mediabrands, where he oversaw $32 billion in annual media spending for IPG clients worldwide.

MBPT contributing editor John Consoli talked to Spengler just before his first day on the job at Clear Channel about his thoughts on changing his buyer side allegiance, and his transition into a new post that was created for him.

After more than 20 years on the agency buy side, you are moving to the media selling side. Several agency execs have made similar moves over the last decade. How easy or hard do you think this transition will be?
Both the buying and selling side have a similar focus and require a similar skill set. Both involve consumers—what do they want and how do you best reach them. Both deal with marketing clients and both deal with content. Those are three areas you focus on regardless of which side—buying or selling—you are working on. Media buying and media selling have more things in common than they do differences.

Have you spoken to any of the agency executives who’ve transitioned to the media selling side to get an idea of what the transition will be like?
I haven’t spent a lot of time talking to people since accepting the position at Clear Channel. It’s a small enough business marketplace to get a sense of how well those who’ve made the switch are doing. Good media people are good media people, whether they work on the buying or selling side. We all know the same people so I get an idea of how they are doing. But I haven’t called anyone since I made my move.

What does your new position as president of content marketing and revenue strategy specifically entail?
It will involve working both with the sales and content teams on the national and local levels to exploit the Clear Channel assets and to develop new opportunities for advertisers—to help them grow their business. A second part will involve uncovering insights about the effectiveness of the Clear Channel assets and properties and helping to communicate that to the marketplace. What I learned on the buying side about being a customer and representing customers is what I will focus on when dealing with marketers. I hope to bring some ideas on how to integrate marketers into Clear Channel content and to help accelerate the progress they are already making in the marketplace. The sales and content teams at Clear Channel are already doing a great job. I will try to enhance what they’re doing and to bring the sales and content sides together in coming up with solutions for marketers.

When your appointment was announced, you said that one of your goals would be to bring brands closer to content. What do you mean by that and how do you plan to do it?
Well, I already discussed some ideas with the Clear Channel folks but I don’t want to give away too much of the playbook. What I’ll say is that I want to create scaled opportunities for brands to be more closely associated with actual on-air content. I want to find ways for brands to have a natural and relevant tie-in with consumers, which will allow them to stand out. The home run is when specific media execution helps a brand grow its business.

Do you think you’ll be able to win over some of your former clients at both Initiative and Magna Global to do some marketing deals with Clear Channel?
I don’t know if I’ll win them over, but I was close with a few accounts, account teams and clients and I hope to turn my knowledge of what they are looking for into tailored opportunities that can make a difference for them.

As you rose through the ranks on the media agency side, you were primarily involved in buying broadcast and cable television. Clear Channel is heavily into radio. How long will it take you to get up to speed in the radio medium where sound is more important than visual?
I think television and radio are similar in that both need to focus on consumers, clients and content. For the first part of my career it’s true that I did grow up buying broadcast. But for the past eight years there have been three very different and rather steep learning curves for me—understanding digital, running an agency and leading global media buying across all platforms in 60-plus countries. Having said that, I will have a learning curve to be sure, but I already have a lot of knowledge about Clear Channel since several of my agency clients were customers. And having worked with Clear Channel on the agency side is one of the reasons why I wanted to come to work here.

Radio ad dollars have been declining as digital and digital video has been growing, although there are opportunities for online radio. How do you convince marketers to start spending more ad dollars in radio?
Clear Channel is moving in a lot of media spaces, but regarding radio specifically, there are lots of success stories that Clear Channel can offer where media buys have worked well for clients. We need to provide clients with data that makes them more confident that investing in radio will help drive their businesses. When I was at Initiative one of our major media spending clients found that radio delivered the best return on investment for them. One of my goals will be to create new opportunities that will showcase brands in ways that will get them more noticed by radio-listening consumers.

While at Magna, you created the Magna Consortium which brought marketers and media outlets together with the Interpublic agencies to improve the media buying process. Clear Channel was a member of the consortium. How closely do you plan to work with your former company Magna Global in that area as a member of the Clear Channel team?
I will need to confer with Tim Castelli [president, national sales, marketing & partnerships] on that but I am assuming I’ll have some involvement with my old teammates at Magna and that will be fun.

Take a quick look back at your years in the media agency business and in a nutshell talk a bit about how media buying and media selling has changed over the past two decades.
It’s hard to sum up 20 years succinctly, but the explosion of data and technology has made the media business so much more complex to buy and sell. It has also made media a much more powerful component of marketing overall.

What will you miss most about the media buying side? And what will you miss least?
I’ll miss most my standing invitation to the Olympics. I’ll miss least media agency reviews.