When the SNTA was in the market for a new president, Chairman Howard Levy knew just what the organization needed: “Somebody who understood the media planning world, who could speak the language planners need to hear, in order to tell the benefits of syndicated programming.”
Mr. Levy, executive VP of ad sales for Buena Vista Television, was himself a media planner back in the days when selling shows into syndication was a much simpler business. “Now it’s a sophisticated process, and we needed someone who understood it and could tell our stories,” he said.
A search firm suggested Mitch Burg, CEO of IDT’s media division, who also had been mentioned by people at SNTA and others Mr. Levy knew.
“His pedigree was pretty established by the time we met him,” Mr. Levy said. “And he just stood out from everybody else.”
Since joining the organization Mr. Burg has displayed “a terrific work ethic,” Mr. Levy said. “He’s got creative ideas and he understands the whole media business.”
Mr. Burg said his first year on the job at the SNTA was a successful one. “We’re going out and talking about the total television landscape and how, as the television landscape changes, syndication becomes a more important element,” he said. “We’ve done this primarily by doing face-to-face meetings. We probably did 50 to 60 meetings this year alone with clients and planners.”
Mr. Burg said one key to success is for syndicators to keep in mind what’s important to clients. He pointed to the issues-clutter, fragmentation, program quality, branded entertainment and integration fees-cited as most important on the Association of National Advertisers TV Web site.
“As we move forward, I think the challenge for us is to continue to address client issues and to listen. Anybody can talk, and I think sometimes it’s more important to listen,” he said.
This year, Mr. Burg said, he again hopes to get together with the clients and planners the SNTA has selected as targets. “My goal is to go out and meet with as many of them as possible, to help them in addressing their issues and concerns. Then, as we go through the year, we go, ‘Yes, we made a difference here; yes, we made a difference there.'”
Mr. Burg started learning the media business at a midsize ad agency, Warwick Walsh & Miller. “It was a great experience for a young kid because the size of the agency allowed me to do lots of different things,” Mr. Burg said, “not only planning but buying as well.”
After three years he joined the media department of NW Ayer, where he worked on the introduction of AT&T’s “Reach Out and Touch Someone” campaign. He also worked on a number of retail accounts, including Burger King, Ponderosa, Boston Chicken, KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.
In 1992 Ayer became one of the first ad agencies to spin off its media department into an independent company. Mr. Burg held various positions at the new company, The Media Edge, including those of planning director, head of the spot groups and new business chief.
Mr. Burg rose to president of The Media Edge before leaving to head IDT’s media division in 2001. While he was there, IDT got into the broadband TV business and started an animation studio, a radio network and a brochure distribution company.
All the while, Mr. Burg missed the advertising side of the business, he said: “That’s why I came back.”
One former college friend, Fred Dubin, now managing partner and director of entertainment marketing and promotions at Mediaedge:cia, said he remembers Mr. Burg as energetic and creative. “He’s caring about the people who work for him, and nurturing,” Mr. Dubin said.
He has a sense of humor as well.
“For a company meeting a couple of years ago,” Mr. Dubin said, “we were trying to make it interesting, so one of the things we did was create a video. The video was a takeoff on ‘The Blair Witch Project.’ It was ‘The Blair Mitch Project.’
“It was about two planners, two junior people who had to come to see Mitch about the plan they were developing. It was very funny. It goes to the fact that he’s got a good sense of self, and he’s very comfortable in his skin.”
Mr. Burg lives on Long Island, N.Y., and has four children and two grandchildren.
Just the Facts
Title: President, Syndicated Network Television Association
How long in current position: Since January 2004
Year of birth: 1954
Place of birth: Queens, N.Y.
Who knew? With no other takers at the SNTA office, Mr. Burg split all the boxes on a recent Super Bowl pool chart with marketing director Jordan Harris. Mr. Burg lost the pool, but Mr. Harris bought him lunch.