CBS Sales President Jo Ann Ross on Making a Difference

By Charlene Weisler Media Insights Archives

Jo Ann Ross, President of CBS Network Sales, is one of the longest tenured presidents of sales in television. She honed her skills on the agency side, starting as an assistant in the buying department at Bozell, soon rising to the head of the department. From there she moved into broadcast TV, first at ABC and then at CBS where she worked her way up to President in 2002. Ross has found that although her title is still the same, her job has “changed quite dramatically.” In this compelling interview, she talks about how the media landscape is evolving, the many challenges to media and broadcast TV, the rising influence of data and the strategy behind CBS Connections. Ross also shares some insights into her charitable efforts on behalf of cancer research.

On Tuesday, September 29th, Jo Ann is being honored for her work with Coaches vs. Cancer at the 6th Annual Coaches vs. Cancer industry event at the New York Hilton Midtown. Cocktails are at 6 pm, dinner and presentation at 7pm.  Contact Sadia at Sadia.Mehmood@cancer.org for more information.

Charlene Weisler: How has sales changed since you first started in your current job?

Jo Ann Ross: The television industry has changed and technology has become part of our everyday life. We are still responsible for selling units at the network, which is the national advertisers, but we are now also working with interactive and we are also working with the CBS Sports cable network. As far as the landscape changing, there are more and more choices for clients out there. Also, the impact of data has changed -- how it has come into our everyday lives and in every decision that clients are making and that we are making as we program the network. The good news is that all these changes and choices are just making broadcast that much more of a compelling option for marketers.

CW: What are some of the biggest challenges you now face in this fragmenting marketplace?

JR: Data is really important and it is readily available to clients and vendors. As the landscape becomes more fragmented, as there are more choices out there, the sales pie is being cut into many, many pieces. The clients want to be sure that whatever they are spending their money on does deliver their return on investment. Each client measures that ROI differently. So the challenges are really getting to know the client, doing deep dives with the brand managers or the CMOs and seeing what they really want. There is “no one size fits all” and some of the research that we are getting is sometimes delayed. So they are making decisions before the fact and getting the results after the fact.  We are working with our clients on all of the available data and while it’s a work in progress, the results are very encouraging.

CW: There are specific challenges when it comes to network television.

JR: The challenge we have in network television is the myth that people are not watching network television anymore. That is not true. In fact they are watching more television but they are watching it differently on different devices in different places. We still offer the best content out there. CBS is still America’s most watched network and our content is everywhere. We have gone from just a media company to what Leslie Moonves always says -- a content company. So our challenge is to keep up with the changes, stay close to our clients and make sure that we deliver what we sell.

CW: Tell me about CBS Connections.

JR: This is a group that sits in network sales that works with all of the divisions of the company when a client comes in with a RFP that requires more than just network television. If they want to buy radio, if they want to buy digital, if they want to buy any other CBS assets -- this is the group that puts it together.

CW: You are very active in cancer awareness efforts with Cycle for Survival and their annual fundraiser that occurs in first quarter. And this week you are being honored at Coaches vs Cancer.

JR: Yes. Coaches vs. Cancer is all about supporting the American Cancer Society through leadership and mentoring, as they say “on and off the field/court.” I am a cancer survivor and am humbled that they have chosen me to be the honoree. I hope that when I tell the story of my journey I inspire others to be proactive regarding their own health care, increasing awareness for men and women to schedule regular cancer screenings. Early detection is so important to curing various types of cancer. The money that is raised every year funds research that has decreased cancer rates by 22% since 1991 -- more than 1.5 million lives saved … and I am one of them. So a big “thank you” to Coaches vs. Cancer!

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