Oscar’s Exchange Program

Nov 8, 2006  •  Post A Comment

For Mitch Oscar, the American Bible Society’s loss was the advertising industry’s gain.
In his youth Mr. Oscar’s interests tended to be artistic, if not always practical. Now, as executive VP and director of CaratDigital and head of the Carat Exchange, he’s working to find practical uses for new media.
Mr. Oscar grew up playing musical instruments, including the clarinet, oboe and piano. He played the piano in a rock band that shared bills with one of Billy Joel’s bands, the Hassles. He went to culinary school in upstate New York, then transferred to SUNY Purchase, where he edited a poetry magazine.
To get a job in the real world, he enrolled in New York’s Betty Owen business school. After learning to type, and acquiring other useful skills, Mr. Oscar was sent on a job interview with the American Bible Society, which found him too aggressive. He next interviewed with BBDO and became a secretary in the ad agency’s programming department.
Mr. Oscar was promoted and learned to buy TV and radio time as well as create programs for clients including Chrysler. His BBDO colleagues at the time included Tony Ponturo, VP of Global Media and Sports Marketing for Anheuser-Busch; Ray Warren, president of Carat Americas; Steve Grubbs, CEO North America for PHD; Larry Fried, former ABC sales executive and now chief revenue officer of SQAD; and Bob Levinson, head of worldwide TV for ICM.
He moved to NW Ayer for a while, then to Lever Brothers to run an in-house business operation, then to Bristol-Myers, who wanted to hire someone who knew programming. (At the time, Mr. Oscar was also writing plays that were produced off-off-Broadway.)
Then he went to McCann-Erickson, where he was in charge of national television buying and head of radio as the agency launched “new” Coke, then brought back Classic Coke. Coca-Cola hired him to work at its Columbia Pictures Television unit. Later, when the department was eliminated, he moved to the Saul Group, which produced 30 episodes of “The Care Bears.” That company ran into financial problems, so he set up his own company called HocusFocus, which consulted on new media.
“I didn’t like the negotiating side, but I needed work,” Mr. Oscar said. He saw opportunity in his knowledge of changing distribution systems and his ability to explain it clearly.
Early clients included Bloomberg, McCann-Erickson, Arthur Andersen and Merrill Lynch. When McCann’s media department became Universal McCann, it asked him to go on staff as director of media futures and allowed him to keep his consulting business on the side.
In 2002, when McCann had financial problems, Mr. Oscar had to leave, and again leaned on his consulting business. He added new clients Cox, AT&T, Cablevision, Visible World, Jovio and Invidi, and helped several cable networks including ESPN, CNN Nat Geo and Discovery as they entered the world of video on demand.
Three years ago he started working with Carat CEO David Verklin, who set up CaratDigital and the Carat Exchange with Mr. Oscar.
Carat Exchange was designed as a place where the industry—not just Carat and its clients—could discuss new ideas and products. It led to tests of addressable advertising through Cablevision’s cable systems and brought clients to broadband and VOD advertising for Gotuit.com. It has also led to discussion of a new remote control system developed by Hillcrest Labs.
“If David didn’t allow me to do what I do, I don’t know that I’d be this far along,” Mr. Oscar said. “He’s basically subsidized for me and the industry a place to share information and do things.”
Mr. Oscar likes being home with his wife, a political refugee from Afghanistan, and his 10-year-old son, Zachary. His musical tastes run to jazz, such as Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans.
Who knew? Mr. Oscar has a fairly low-tech hobby: chopping wood. He said landscapers around his home in Carmel, N.Y., bring him trees. He owns two chainsaws and a splitting ax and finds the simplicity of woodcutting appealing. He’s even teaching wood chopping to his son. “We have two fireplaces and a wood-burning stove and we have a fire in the house every night,” he said.
This article is part of TVWeek.com’s Media Planner newsletter, a weekly source of breaking news, trend articles, profiles and data about media planning edited by Senior Editor Jon Lafayette.


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