Donna Speciale Reveals Strategy Behind WarnerMedia's Upfront

By WarnerMedia InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: Donna Speciale Reveals Strategy Behind WarnerMedia's Upfront

Every year around this time in March, Donna Speciale, President of Ad Sales for WarnerMedia, brings together her salespeople, to share with them the latest priorities from the brand teams and how they will go to market, all to rally them into the Upfront season.

This year, there'll be a couple of differences when they talk about the future of the company’s content and sales strategies: First, as you probably noticed, gone is the "Turner" label, under a reorganization that puts Bob Greenblatt and Jeff Zucker at the top of the new WarnerMedia org chart that also includes divisions like HBO. Second, alongside Greenblatt and Zucker is Speciale’s new boss Gerhard Zeiler, who will be heading up ad sales for all WarnerMedia divisions as the company’s new CRO. For Speciale, after more than two years in the making, the changes are welcome. "It finally happened -- we're finally moving forward," she said in an interview.  

Despite all of that change at the corporate level and a new boss, many things about the ad sales team have remained constant. "Yes we are now 'WarnerMedia' instead of 'Turner' but our advertising mission and the team that our clients have come to know and trust are the same," Speciale noted.

And similar to previous years, at the company's Upfront presentation to advertisers on May 15, Speciale will still take the stage at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden and press her audience to break beyond historical norms in how they value and buy media today. While there is a lot of interest in the company’s soon-to-be-launched, direct-to-consumer product, Speciale will mostly hit on the what is available to advertisers in this Upfront and the importance of WarnerMedia's ability to offer premium video - in whatever format its audience wants it, be that on a 52-inch screen or smart phone. "This year is a pivotal point for our company and industry," Speciale explained. “We need to shift more advertising spend into a plan that correctly captures the full funnel experience and encourages real connections with our audiences," Speciale said. “At the same time, we need to prepare them for where we are quickly headed. Communication, collaboration and connectivity will all be key.”

Even before the reorganization that more tightly integrated the Turner channels and other properties with each other and with new(-ish) parent company AT&T, Speciale had begun working with her AT&T counterparts. "We can't be siloed -- it just doesn't make any sense," she said. So, she, Brian Lesser, CEO of AT&T's advertising and analytics unit, Xandr, and the teams at both companies, cooked up a way for data to power Turner’s ad products. 

The first fruits of WarnerMedia's partnership with Xandr were revealed at CES in January. One of those test cases was with AT&T Mobility, which reached 30% more of its defined audience segments than a regular TV buy with a supercharged-by-Xandr buy.  Speciale looks forward to revealing more cases at the Upfront presentation in May, and she’ll have a lot to choose from - all advanced ad deals the team is doing with advertisers -- "scatter," or non-Upfront deals -- are in fact already being completed using Xandr insights powered by AT&T data.

Pushing clients and buyers toward a more holistic, full-funnel strategy is valuable when you can simultaneously guarantee brand safety and premium video content.

"Clients have always wanted to talk business outcomes. With Xandr, we now have these proof points that TV advertising works," Speciale said. "With the issues that some digital companies have had lately, you see clients having to take dollars out of that space. Now, when you look at all of those strengths under one roof, we will talk to clients about investing more in a company like WarnerMedia.”

"The momentum has just been getting stronger and stronger," Speciale concluded.

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