BY VERNE GAY They are hardly “hotshots” — that would imply recklessness. Nor, perhaps, “stars” — too flashy. But they are highly competent, creative, savvy, seasoned and knowledgeable. And because they work for major agencies that spend an aggregate of probably around $20 billion, they are also powerful, affecting the fortunes and futures of some 60 commercial-based cable networks, not to mention a few more digital-based ones. They are among the best and brightest people who buy commercial time on cable right now. The 15 cable buying specialists profiled here are an eclectic bunch: from media directors to broadcast supervisors to presidents. Some have worked in the business of media buying for the better part of three decades; some only the better part of one. Many are women and — while most work in East Coast-based companies — some come from major Midwest and Western shops, too. But all have one thing in common: They buy cable, and they buy it well, according to cable network sales chiefs and the agencies for which they work. In some instances, they position cable as a national buy, forcing it to conform to the same parameters as network television. Other times their focus is solely on cable. Reasons: cheaper, more targeted and more malleable when it comes to working with clients. These buyers were asked four questions: What do you like about cable? What don’t you like about it? What shows or networks do you like? What shows and/or trends are hot right now? Here’s what the advertising business’s top 15 buyers had to say: LISA HERDMAN VP/associate director of network programming, Los Angeles-based Rubin Postaer: Herdman began her career in 1991 at the old Western International Media as a spot assistant. She’s now one of national broadcast’s heavy hitters on the West Coast. What she likes about cable: “The targetability and flexibility. Most networks are willing to work with advertisers on sponsorships that are over and above ‘two units and a billboard’ product placement, promo tags, logo usage, isolated messages adjacent to relevant programming.” What she doesn’t like: “The clutter. We have found that negotiating positions within the pods has become as big an issue as the programs themselves.” What she watches: “The news networks…and MTV is also a go-to. Right now, the NBA is big in my household as well.” What’s hot: “Product integration [which] is fine as long as the commercialization doesn’t become too blatant.” STEVE GRUBBS CEO, PHD: One of the most-respected people working in advertising today, Grubbs has been a mentor to dozens of buyers, many of whom grew up with him at BBDO where he worked for 22 years (13 of those as director of the national broadcast buying unit). He was previously the CEO of OMD USA, among the nation’s leading buyers of national broadcast. Likes: “It’s a great medium for reaching niche targets and audiences that are light TV viewers. It enables us to target consumers by demo, lifestyle and ‘passion points.’ Cablers are also open to out-of-the-box executions and other enhancements that can reinforce brand messages.” Doesn’t like: “The marketplace is overcrowded with some marginal players. When did we start measuring audiences to the second decimal point? When did we begin hyping audience growth rates when actual viewership increases translate into one-tenth of a rating point?” Watches: “I always check ESPN’s live event schedule. I’ll graze through CNBC and CNN. And I watch all of the superb programming on Discovery and TLC.” JOHN SWIFT Group director for national broadcast, OMD USA: PepsiCo’s lead man on national TV, and a Grubbs protégé, Swift started in 1990 at BBDO, left toward the end of the decade to work for NBC in Olympics sales and then was brought back in 2000 to run the Pepsi business. Likes: Cable’s “ability to target specific audiences for a client, and the ability to develop more integrated creative solutions, whether vignettes or on-air programming segments that not only feature my clients’ products, but also accentuate [their] advertising. Our goal is to see more products for our client, and cable is most user friendly in that area.“ Doesn’t like: “Some of the early pioneers, some of the first networks that got started, are going through an identity crisis. Cable is going to go through another evolution, where [some] networks will struggle to stay true to their brand identity. Branding is suffering a little bit, mostly with the broadcast cable networks that are trying to mirror the traditional broadcast networks. And some of these broader-skewing networks are not as targeted or focused as they used to be. There are a plethora of networks that seem to blend in with each other, and they aren’t differentiating themselves with advertisers or consumers.” Watches: ESPN (“a big viewer”), VH1, VH1 Classic, Comedy Central. What’s hot: TVFood, HGTV. (Says Swift, the cable channels that will survive “will target specific audiences with subject matter that people care about.”) RINO SCANZONI President of broadcast division, Mediaedge: CIA: Scanzoni began his career at Ted Bates in the mid-70s, went on to BBDO and then to Benton & Bowles, then parent of one of the ad world’s most prestigious broadcast buying units. In the mid-90s, he and Irwin Gotlieb spun off the buying unit of DMB&B to create Televest, which morphed into MediaVest. He assumed his current post last year. Likes: “Cable’s ability to target a very specific audience and its ability to do some very interesting integrated marketing media deals. You’re dealing with a venue where a lot of programming is actually produced and controlled by the network. That gives you more flexibility, especially when it provides more targeting and makes it easier to come up with integrated marketing opportunities than broadcast.” Doesn’t like: “I’m not alone on this one, but there’s quite a number of players so it’s still very challenging from an administrative standpoint in dealing with a tremendous amount of inventory and so many individual sales staffs. I think, at some point, especially since they are owned by the same media companies, there will be a movement toward more centralization…This could make the process a little bit easier, and you could focus in with a couple of key players who can understand your business.” Watches: “A fair amount” of MTV and the news channels. PETER BUTCHEN SVP and group director of national broadcast, Initiative Media Worldwide: Butchen’s been with the company through a rapid growth phase over the last decade. According to some estimates, Initiative is the king of cable spending, in terms of total dollars spent ($1.5 billion on cable in ’01 alone). Total national broadcast billings circa 2003: $2 billion. Likes: “The business arrangement that allows the program to get to the viewer is irrelevant to the viewer. The average viewer doesn’t know the difference between network or syndication or cable, so cable is just as effective as any other medium.” Doesn’t like: “The culture of very long commercial breaks. It’s probably one of the biggest drawbacks. And because it’s not at 100% penetration, there are pockets you just don’t get — and can miss as much as 20% [of the potential national audience] right off the bat.” Watches: The History Channel, HGTV. SANDE BOVIS SVP and associate director of national broadcast, Universal McCann: Bovis runs a huge buying group at UM and is one of the true heavy hitters in the national cable marketplace. Likes: “The sheer volume of networks, both broad-based and very targeted, makes it appealing. And because of the variety of networks, cable can be used for several purposes — efficiency, to replace lost network rating points, and to reach niche demographic targets. And with the proliferation of networks, unique program environments have been made available. This added benefit offers many clients opportunities to link their products with compatible content.” Doesn’t like: “Clutter…Most networks carry huge commercial loads [which] makes it difficult for your client’s message to stand out. The other downside is continued backroom issues. While greatly improved, the incidence of error is still prevalent, causing numerous billing problems. Because of these problems, cable remains very labor intensive.” Watches: Movies, news and weather. And “I gravitate to” TBS, TNT, Bravo and AMC. What’s hot: Trading Spaces and The Shield. CHRIS GERACI Director of national TV buying, OMD USA: Another big gun in spending circles, and another BBDO alum (he spent 14 years there, starting as an assistant, and eventually became head of the agency’s national TV buying group). Likes: “The diversity of audiences that you can reach through cable.” Doesn’t like: “There is way too much to choose from…There is almost too much of a distribution platform, and [product is] too varied. A lot of suppliers are coming to us with networks that are only in a few million homes, but it’s still in their minds that they should be attractive to us as a buyer of national media. The issue in my mind is that the distribution platforms have gotten ahead of where the content is, and I think the digital rollout in a way continues the fragmentation. I don’t have a solution for that, [but] if you’re going to continue to proliferate networks you may want to make sure there’s a demand for what you’re putting out there, both from an advertiser and audience perspective.” Watches: CNBC’s Kudlow & Cramer. What’s hot: “Unfortunately, the war that hasn’t happened yet is hot. The fact is that it’s almost being used as a promotional device for some of the news networks, and I think it’s gone well beyond what’s appropriate in terms of a normal level of coverage.“ ANDREW DONCHIN SVP and director of national broadcast, Carat North America: Started at Young & Rubicam and went on to Wells Rich Green, J. Walter Thompson and then Levine Huntley. He — along with Grubbs and Scanzoni — is among cable’s original supporters. Likes: “The efficiencies you’re able to achieve along with the added-value opportunities and promotional opportunities. Although the broadcast networks are now a little bit more eager to do creative things out of the box, cable’s been there right from the start. And also: the ability to target [viewers] more precisely.” Doesn’t like: Cable needs “better stewardship in terms of the maintenance of the buys. It also needs improved coordination among networks in terms of how they present plans. It needs a little more standardization.” Watches: The Game Show Network (“I’m addicted to this because it shows life in much simpler times, or at least it seemed like they were”), HBO, ESPN. JASON MALTBY Managing director, MindShare: A veteran national broadcast specialist who started his career in ’88 and who bought local TV and radio for the Bush/Quayle campaign. Likes: “Cable is very narrowly targeted so the biggest advantage is the fact that you can fine-tune the audience you’re trying to reach without a lot of waste. Also, cost efficiency relative to other outlets as well as added-value opportunities like sponsorships or billboards. It’s all three things; if you lose any one of those it would make cable slightly less attractive.” Doesn’t like: “It still generates a tremendous amount of man hours just to manage it. Just because ratings are small, a modest-sized or medium-sized budget generates thousands of units across different cable networks. In terms of logistics — traffic, invoices, managing paper flow — even in an electronic age, it is still very onerous.” Watches: The History Channel. What’s hot: Trading Spaces, The Shield and “repurposing.” LARRY ALECIA National broadcast supervisor, Optimedia: Alecia has spent virtually his entire career at the buying group (he started there when it was DeWitt Media). Directly out of college, he began at J. Walter Thompson. Alecia is BMW’s go-to man in national broadcast. Likes: “Cable’s a much more flexible medium than network TV. There are more things you can do, like sponsorships, and the networks will create special programming or little vignettes, things you can’t get in broadcast, unless you spend $100 million. Some networks also cater to very distinct niches, so there’s probably less waste [with them].” Doesn’t like: “There are 60 networks out there, which is a lot, and when you’re looking to do a buy with a client who has a limited amount of money, I try to talk to everybody and let them know that ‘listen, this is what I’m looking for.’ But everyone thinks they have something perfect for someone, so [there’s] a lot of duplication. And there are so many GRPs in cable that some of the programming over a 24-hour period might not be of the highest quality.” Watches: ESPN, Comedy Central, MTV, Food Network. What’s hot: Trading Spaces‘ decoration genre. SUSAN MORGENSTEIN Group director, OMD USA: Overseer of one of national TV’s most important accounts — McDonald’s. Her career stops include DMB&B and Grey. Likes: “The fact that there’s such a wide variety of programming options and demographic skews. There is something for everybody.” Doesn’t like: “Maintenance and stewardship of advertisers. Cable is not as sophisticated as it needs to be to move the business forward. Solutions? I’m not that technical, but I think that you can’t turn around [market share] on a dime when you still have billing discrepancy issues. It’s hard to convince a client at this point that — beyond cost — cable is on a par with the broadcast networks.” Watches: “I’m completely hooked on Trading Spaces.” JENNIFER SHAW SVP, GM, Mediaworks: Another one of TV’s .300 hitters, Shaw pilots the auto giant’s network and cable sports buying, including event sponsorships, on-air signage, product placement and official car/truck league relationships. She started at Bozell Jacobs, jumped to Lintas: Campbell-Ewald in 1987 (where she worked on GM’s sports and cable entertainment businesses) then back to Bozell — this time as Chrysler’s chief cable negotiator. She returned to Mediaworks in ’95. Likes: “Cable sports constantly challenges us to think beyond traditional 30-second spots and develop promotions, programming or associations that transfer some of the emotion inherent in sports to our products. Attempting to tap into this passion lends itself to fresh, creative ways to approach media.“ Doesn’t like: “Lengthy national pods that are common in cable. Unfortunately, national cable pods are often connected to local breaks, which to a product like an automotive is problematic. This makes positioning even more of a priority in cable. In addition, it remains difficult to get pod positions, and when you do it’s often too late to make any adjustments.” Watches: SportsCenter, Pardon the Interruption, College Game Day, NFL Countdown, and Lifetime’s For the People. And, she adds, “almost anything on Style.” What’s hot: “Product integration. Advertisers are trying to move beyond vignettes and features that air on the front or back end of a commercial break. Instead they are looking to embed their message within content. Along with reality television, this trend has hit cable sports. It runs the gamut from logo identification on tickers and running orders, to pre/post-game entitlements, and ultimately product on the set. But, advertisers and marketers need to be careful: For this type of exposure to resonate at all with the viewer it must be the exception, not the rule — otherwise it just becomes background noise.” NATALIE CONWAY VP and media director, Starcom: Conway is Starcom’s top cable buyer and handles TV buys for Best Buy, Polaroid and Allegra — among many others. She joined the Chicago-based agency (then part of Leo Burnett) in ’91, and also spent a year at the Kellogg Company as interim ad director. A sales chief at a major cable network says, “Natalie is extremely knowledgeable about the cable marketplace.” Likes: “The diversity of offerings. Considering 60-plus networks spanning a wide variety of programming genres, the job of a cable negotiator is never dull.” Doesn’t like: “With struggles to gain penetration, new networks that fill true and specific needs in the marketplace have a difficult time gaining necessary traction. We clearly support innovation and the idea of competition in the marketplace, but it is increasingly difficult to support all of the smaller players and still gain critical mass for our clients’ efforts.“ Watches: The “I Love the ’80s” theme week on VH1 (“truly incredible”), and “I am excited by the new series on FX, Lucky.“ DEAN LUPLOW VP and media director, Starcom: Luplow is Starcom’s top buyer on sports and kids, which makes him one of the ad trade’s power brokers in both genres (and also buys all national broadcast for a number of other top Starcom clients). He started at Campbell-Ewald, moved on to J. Walter Thompson as a national broadcast buyer (in Detroit). He joined Starcom in ’99. Likes: “The opportunity to align with a valued ‘brand’ on multiple levels and touch points. Certainly ESPN is an internationally recognized brand, [and] regardless of your financial parameters, there are multiple points of entry to the ESPN brand, which can extend well beyond spots and dots.” Doesn’t like: “Staffing. Given the tremendous sales success the cable industry has experienced over the last couple of years, some reaching sellout levels for the first time, staffing has not kept pace. [There’s a low incidence] of individual client schedules being monitored by every network on a daily basis, with specific attention to daypart unit loads, pod positioning, competitive violations. Certainly some have addressed this issue more aggressively, but it’s not uncommon for a lone sales planner to be responsible for an entire office’s client list, specifically as it relates to backroom service. Also, the lack of uniformity within the cable industry, as it relates to daypart definitions.” Watches: “The ESPN networks are a large part of my personal life. Obviously SportsCenter is a staple, but new EOE programs such as PTI and Around the Horn are among my favorites. Also, the Golf Channel (Golf Central as well as the instructional series) and Speed Channel. I’m also the prototypical news junkie — CNN, HLN, MSNBC, CNBC and Fox News.” What’s hot: The Shield. MARC GOLDSTEIN CEO, MindShare North America: One of the true kings of TV spending and negotiations, Goldstein manages a department that spends just south of $3 billion. Highlights of his long career: former head of the national broadcast group for GM Mediaworks; head of national broadcast for Lintas; and stints at most of New York’s top agencies, including Ogilvy & Mather. Likes: “Cable provides an enormous variety of choice to meet clients’ objectives. Broad-based networks, niche networks, targeted networks all allow the opportunity to reach our consumers in different ways, environments and in different combinations of networks. It is also a very efficient medium which further stimulates advertising spending.” Doesn’t like: “Perhaps the biggest issue/problem is the cable nets’ own ‘back rooms.’ The number of units, rotations, schedules and maintenance is very labor intensive, and it’s hard for the cable nets to keep up. This creates added work in missed schedules, incorrect rotations, billing discrepancies, generating even more work on everyone’s behalf.” Watches: “I take advantage of the variety by watching lots of different things — sports, original dramas like Monk, cooking shows on the Food Network, some news. I’m an eclectic viewer.”

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