MediaVest Change Agent

Dec 20, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Donna Speciale was brought into MediaVest to make changes. Now, after almost three years, the changes include a new title and job description for herself.
Ms. Speciale last month was named president of investment and activation at MediaVest USA, which puts her in charge of overseeing investment in all media. Previously, she was in charge of the agency’s video investment and activation group, which incorporated traditional broadcast and cable, along with new forms of video advertising.
“When we established VIA, we were talking about following the consumer wherever the content was. This is now an extension of that,” she said. “It’s really going to be about the consumption habits of what the viewer’s doing and how they’re changing ever so quickly and to be able to react to it and be a little bit more proactive rather than reactionary.”
Even with a strong team in place, Ms. Speciale said she’ll still be negotiating with the networks. “I’m not going anywhere,” she said. But the new structure could mean changes; for one thing, media budgets are likely to be more fluid.
“A lot of it is determined by consumer habit. It’s not going to be about us throwing something into a computer, a modeler, and have it spit out where the dollars should be placed,” she said. “It’s really about being completely agnostic about where the media should be placed and have it placed on what the consumer is doing versus what you believe an adult 18 to 49 should be doing.”
Before she arrived, MediaVest was anything but fluid. It was known to be difficult to deal with and much more interested in getting the lowest-priced spots than in creating innovative marketing platforms.
MediaVest’s new CEO Laura Desmond was looking to change that. “Laura wanted change. I was her change agent,” Ms. Speciale said.
The first year and a half was tough. Now she thinks of the agency as a dream team, its members including Pam Zucker, senior VP of marketplace ignition; Brian Terkelsen, executive VP and managing director of connective tissue (branded entertainment); and Ed Gentner, senior VP and group director of video investment and activation, all of whom were there when she arrived, plus Christine Merrifield, senior VP and director of video investment and activation and operations; Michal Rubin, senior VP, group director; Scott Lee, senior VP, group director; and Dan Donnelly, senior VP, group director, who joined the agency more recently.
“If I didn’t have this team beneath me, I couldn’t take on more responsibility,” she said.
Ms. Speciale grew up with the media business. Her father was a media director at an agency in New York, but wound up at a shop in Providence, R.I. “So I was a media brat,” she recalled, visiting her dad at the agency and playing on its softball team. She attended Ithaca College in upstate New York, then transferred to Bryant College in Rhode Island, and interned at Leonard Monahan Saabye. “Two days out of five, I was at the agency,” she said.
The experience was a positive one because she had a good idea of whether or not she would like the advertising business. As it turned out, “I absolutely loved it,” and she got a full-time job at LMS right out of school. Unlike the larger agencies in New York, LMS gave her a chance to learn both buying and planning, but after about five years, she decided she needed to be in a bigger market, either New York or Boston.
She wound up at Grey Advertising in New York, and stayed there for about 15 years. “They kept giving me more responsibility,” she said. Eventually, Grey’s media arm became MediaCom, and Ms. Speciale was named head of broadcast. But after five years, she needed a change to get a different perspective. Mel Berning had just left MediaVest to become head of sales for A&E Television Network, leaving an opening, and she grabbed the opportunity.
When she’s not at the office, Ms. Speciale spends time with her two children, a 13-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter. She coaches girls’ basketball and plays golf after learning the game to keep up with the guys in the business. She also gets up at 5 a.m. to run six miles four day a week, then she hits the gym to lift weights. “And I love music,” she added. “I’m a big dancer. I could be on ‘Dancing With the Stars.’ I’m not a shy person.”
Who knew?
Ms. Speciale is a drummer. “My whole family drums. My father was a drummer. I was a drummer as a kid, my brother’s a drummer, my son’s a drummer. We’re a very musical family,” she said. At his bar mitzvah, her son came out and played with the band. “Our house is not quiet. The louder, the better.” Ms Speciale had a hidden dream of being the hot girl drummer in a male rock band, sort of like Sheila E. “That would be the ultimate for me.”
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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