Extraordinary grace under pressure

Feb 11, 2002  •  Post A Comment

For Jason Maltby, the past 12 months have been a time of exciting triumph and staggering tragedy.
Professionally, the senior partner and managing director of national broadcast at MindShare US has been at the top of his game, negotiating great deals during a trying upfront and helping lead the charge in the Novartis consolidation.
At the same time, Mr. Maltby has had to struggle with the pain of his brother being killed in the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center.
Mr. Maltby is a youthful-looking 35-year-old, with the gravitas of a much older man. He projects the button-down competence of the quintessential ad man in the gray flannel suit.
His gleaming, dark wood desk is uncluttered. Files and papers are arranged neatly on a nearby shelf. On the nearest wall are pictures of his three young children, including an ultrasound image of his youngest, taken in utero. His 26th-floor midtown Manhattan office is small, but with a view of the Hudson River and the New Jersey palisades beyond that suggests permanence and continuity. “Cleanliness, orderliness, an even keel,” says Mr. Maltby, summarizing the rules he lives by. “That’s the way I operate.”
“He operated extraordinarily well in a difficult upfront year,” says Mr. Maltby’s boss, Marc Goldstein, MindShare’s president of national broadcast and programming. “He was the leader of MindShare’s negotiation with CBS, which was handled incredibly professionally … and yielded results everybody was pleased with.”
Mr. Maltby agrees that the CBS negotiation was clearly his hardest upfront task. “Everybody had difficulty” with CBS, he says carefully. But he is too discreet to say what is general knowledge on Madison Avenue-that MindShare convinced CBS and Viacom negotiators to back down from their publicly stated policy of no retreats from previous cost-per-thousand levels. All Mr. Maltby will say about the tough talks with CBS is that, “At the end of the day [we] reached a reasonable conclusion, without badgering, without posturing in the press. We didn’t agree with their position in the market … [and] we stuck to our version of what the marketplace was.”
“He’s tough to deal with,” says Bill Morningstar, senior vice president of sales for The WB. “He knows his stuff, and you can’t B.S. him. … His marketplace knowledge is incredible, but he’s not demeaning … [and] he doesn’t get thrown off his game.”
Staying cool
“I never raise my voice with anybody, [and] I always try to treat people with courtesy and respect,” says Mr. Maltby.
And when someone more volatile yells at Mr. Maltby? “You just suck it up,” he says. “That’s just life. You can’t exasperate a situation. If somebody’s got a problem [that has upset him or her] enough so that they’re actually on the phone yelling at me, I listen to what they’re saying and figure what needs to be done to fix the situation.”
Mr. Maltby’s father is a former advertising man, and his mother is a publicist. Raised on a barge that had been converted to a houseboat, he was the second of three sons born just three years apart. Growing up, he had the industrious young man’s usual array of jobs-pumping gas, lifeguarding, waiting on tables and busing dishes. He did a bit of PR for the NFL and sold jewelry at Tiffany’s. When he was 21, an English lit major just out of college, he “backed into” advertising by way of politics when a media-savvy neighbor at a boat dock in Port Washington on Long Island, N.Y., suggested him for a summer job with the 1988 Bush-Quayle presidential campaign. Soon, Mr. Maltby found himself doing all the campaign’s spot radio buys. “I learned a lot about responsibility, about picking up the ball and running with it,” he says.
Mr. Maltby went on to work at D’Arcy, Masius, Benton and Bowles. “Irwin [Gotlieb] was there, Rino [Scanzoni] was there, Donna [Salvatore] was there,” he recalls. He watched them through the chaos of a high-stakes upfront. “These guys never broke a sweat, they never raised their voices, at least that I saw. When they got on the phone with a supplier, it was calm, even, there might be a slight blip just for emphasis. I always said, `That’s the most effective way to negotiate. Anybody can get on the phone and scream and yell.”’
Mr. Maltby is unfailingly gracious, recounting with disarming modesty the key triumph of his past year, which was winning the Novartis account, worth a reported $150 million. “We’ve always had some or all of their buying, but never the full nut at one time,” he says, “and never all the planning as well. One of the philosophies that MindShare has is that in order to really capitalize on media budgets, you really should have a fully integrated media team, that there’s planning and implementation. It just fosters better ideas and execution.”
Personal Sept. 11 tragedy
In addition to Novartis, the pharmaceutical giant, Mr. Maltby represents a wide variety of clients, including IBM, Domino’s Pizza, Hershey Food Corp., Maglite flashlights, Mattel, Merrill Lynch, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Puerto Rico Tourism Board.
Mr. Maltby allows that he will be “on top of” the buying aspect of the Novartis account, though he emphasizes that he is just one of about 15 MindShare executives who together won the account. He calls himself a “jack of all trades” who doesn’t mind doing the “stuff that’s not sexy: billing procedures, traffic systems, moving forward with the next generation of EDI … I’ll do anything. All I want to do is work.”
Mr. Maltby’s modesty extends to being named Electronic Media’s National Media Buyer of the Year. “I thought it was a joke” perpetrated by a colleague, he says. “I’ve made a nice career for myself under the radar, so I was somewhat taken aback.”
There is one matter he would rather not have to talk about, but does so reluctantly: the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
That morning he was on a New Jersey Transit train, heading into the city to work on the Novartis presentation.
He had a window seat and a view of the lower Manhattan skyline. Just before the train entered the tunnel that takes it below the Hudson and into Penn Station, the conductor said on the intercom, “Ladies and gentlemen, if you’ll look to your right, you can see that the World Trade Center is on fire.”
“I remember seeing a dark cloud coming out of it,” Mr. Maltby recalls. “It didn’t look that serious at the time.”
He went back to reading his newspaper. It wasn’t until he reached the lobby of his office building, where a television set was on, that he saw footage of the second plane hitting the tower and the billowing flames. “Then it really hit me. … I was frantically trying to remember what floor my brother worked on. I remember trying to count the floors from the top and trying to figure out where exactly he was in relationship to that. It was a tough day.”
His older brother was a vice president at Cantor Fitzgerald, the ill-fated firm on the 105th floor of 1 World Trade Center that lost more than 600 employees in the attack, including his older brother Christian. After his brother’s death, Mr. Maltby took comfort from the distractions of his duties. The Novartis deal closed in the first week of January. “But we were in the process while that was all going on.”
About Christian he simply said, “I highly doubt that there will be a day that goes by for the rest of my life when I don’t think about him in some way, shape or form.”