“Television is Not Dying!” Turner Sales President Donna Speciale

By Media Insights Archives
Cover image for  article: “Television is Not Dying!” Turner Sales President Donna Speciale

Donna Speciale, President of Turner Broadcasting Ad Sales, started out in the industry as an intern at an ad agency which led to a stellar 27-year career at some of the top advertising firms in the business before joining Turner in 2012. She heads up a sales organization that is at the forefront of cross platform opportunities and innovative research at a time when media companies need to be data savvy and creative in their market positioning.

In this fascinating interview, Speciale talks about how the media world has changed -- even within the past three years. She also explains what the next generation needs to do to prepare for a career in media, how research has gained a seat at the table and how proxy measurement of age and gender will no longer work for television sales.

Charlene Weisler: How is the agency world different from the network world?

Donna Speciale: The agency business has changed a lot. Digital has definitely changed our landscape with a lot more choices for marketers toadvertise their messaging. The agencies have had to learn more about the advertiser’s target consumer. It’s not really about Nielsen anymore with adults 18-49, 25-54. Those days, unfortunately, are over. Now there is a need to focus more on actual audiences rather than proxy measurements.

CW: You have been on the network side for three years. Have you seen any changes in your time at the network?

DS: Yes. Three years is a lifetime by now in our business. There have been many new companies -- Facebook wasn’t Facebook three years ago. Google now has a huge footprint on our industry. Twitter has taken on a life of its own. Pinterest is sure to make an impact. Instagram, too. Snapchat is now doing advertising. All of these new media companies are offering more choices for marketers and that is making it harder for marketers to discover who their consumer really is and to target them efficiently. It is also challenging for media companies to continue to get their share of the money. Advertising budgets are not expanding and the dollars have to spread over a lot more companies. The good news is that we at the networks are changing. Turner is now not just a television company. We are a content company on multiple screens. That has changed drastically over the past three years. Turner Broadcasting wasn’t as deep then as we are today.

CW: And all of these new companies and applications in the industry are all throwing off their own data. Turner is in the vanguard of harnessing data. Can you talk about that?

DS: Digital has changed the way that we need to think about data. Facebook and Google all have a lot of data at their fingertips … and media companies have a lot of data, too. Research now has a huge seat at the table and it is very exciting.

Turner has seven networks. Each one of our networks is very distinct by audience and we do that for a reason. We have audiences from kids at the Cartoon Network to both Millennials and mature news seekers at CNN. Our digital landscapes also have different audiences. Marketers can now reach mostly anybody they want to reach on any platform on any network by advertising on Turner. We never had to sell it that way before. We only sold it on what Nielsen offered -- the buckets of age and gender. That is not good enough anymore. We now have to reach that “auto buyer,” that “auto intender,” that person going to a site to look for more information. The more information we can bring to a marketer as to who our audience is, the larger share of advertiser budgets we can garner. We need to prove that we reach those consumers with the intent to purchase. We never had to look at that before and that is why data is so important now for our success.

CW: Is there any advice that you could give to a student to prepare for a career in media?

DS: You have to stay completely up to date with the new technology and discovering all those new, “on the bleeding edge” companies in the space. There is so much entrepreneurial spirit going on. But you have to know both the new technology as well as the traditional media. It is not smart to focus only on digital. And focusing only on television is also not smart. I have spoken to digital people who don’t want to learn about television because “television is dying.” Television is not dying. Print didn’t die. It is just going through a huge transformation. They will all still be here and you have to understand the complete landscape if you want a successful career in media.

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