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Carat Exec Donchin Sees Online Supporting Broadcast

Oct 10, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Last week, Andy Donchin, the director of broadcast media at Carat, missed one of his favorite shows, “30 Rock.”
Like millions of viewers, he planned to catch up on the episode by streaming it online at NBC’s Web site.
While digital media gets the lion’s share of attention these days, Mr. Donchin is an unabashed supporter of television as doing the heavy lifting in moving his clients’ products off store shelves.
But even Mr. Donchin is taking a broader view of the medium.
“We’re not just television buyers anymore,” he said. “We’re video buyers and we’re trying to buy video no matter what screen it’s on, be it a television screen or a computer screen or a phone screen. There’s so much more to consider these days.”
He said ad dollars are following consumers as they watch TV not only in their living rooms, but in different ways on different screens. However, he emphasized, “Digital is not a substitute for television, it’s a complement.”
And rather than moving dollars away from the broadcast and cable networks, he’s buying those streamed versions of network shows and other digital extensions of those shows.
Mr. Donchin’s agency also is embracing digital. Carat recently put Sarah Fay, the head of its digital unit, in charge of its entire U.S. operation. That means the people in Mr. Donchin’s department are working much more closely with the agency’s digital experts.
“Instead of being digital immigrants, we’re trying to become digital natives. Obviously that’s a lot easier for the younger people in my group because they’re much more comfortable with this world,” he said. But even for a senior executive like Mr. Donchin, getting educated about digital is a good idea.
“I think I’m going to have a job for a while. I think TV is going to be around for a long while,” he said. “Not only that, but the upfront process and the way we have been buying it is going to be around for a while. But I’m not blind, and I don’t have my head in the sand. I think I make myself more valuable by learning the whole new digital world.”
His job—making TV buys for IKEA, Pfizer, Papa John’s, Alberto Culver and other clients that include digital extensions—has become a lot more complicated.
It’s harder,” he said. “It’s fun and it’s interesting, but it’s definitely more complicated and there’s more things to consider. On one hand, I’m defending television, and one of the ways to support it is to use it in other ways, in the nontraditional ways.”
Mr. Donchin was born in New York, but grew up a Jersey boy in Fairlawn. He embraces all the cliches about the Garden State. “Springsteen. What exit? We go down the Shore, not to the beach,” he said describing his youth.
Fairlawn, he recalls, was the first town in the New York area to get a McDonald’s, and he wanted to eat there “every freaking day.” That used to give his father a good laugh.
“You could take me to a really nice restaurant and I would eat a hamburger. And he saw me get into a business where one of the nice things is being able to eat in the finest restaurants in Manhattan. And he used to go, ‘What a waste.’ And he was pretty right,” Mr. Donchin said.
Growing up, Mr. Donchin wanted to play center field for the New York Yankees, but found he didn’t have that kind of talent. But he was athletic enough to fence for the University of Maryland. His letterman jacket doesn’t say what sport he played for the Terrapins, so sometimes when he’s wearing it and is asked about it, “I’ll look them straight in the eye and say, ‘lacrosse.’ The image of Maryland lacrosse players is a little better, especially with females, than fencers.”
After college, Mr. Donchin wasn’t really sure what he wanted to do. “I went to a party, which is ironic because everybody who’s close to me knows I don’t really go to parties. I hear two people talking about advertising, and I thought that sounded pretty good,” he said.
He took resumes to ABC, CBS and NBC. They said “thank you, but stay away,” so he took a job working in the china, glass and silver department at Bloomingdale’s. Among his duties was entering brides-to-be in the store’s bridal registry.
“The good part was I got to meet a lot of girls. The bad news was they were all getting married in six months,” he said.
He finally got a job in advertising at Young & Rubicam, where he was placed in the network group. “All these years later, I’m still doing that,” he said. After Y&R, he had stops at Wells Rich Greene, J. Walter Thompson, Levine Huntley Schmidt & Beaver and MBS, which morphed into Carat.
When asked about hobbies, Mr. Donchin said, “My line is I do two things in life: I work and I work out. One day, I’ll shoehorn in a social life.”
He’s getting some high-priced help in that department. He and some of his clients had dinner with Katie Couric last week.
“She wrote a note to my mother that she was going to find me a wife,” he said. “My mother is in heaven. She’s very thrilled about it.”
Who knew: Mr. Donchin recalled, “My father used to yell at me that I used to watch too much TV. Little did he know it would be my life’s work. And when I took him to the Super Bowl, he finally shut up.”
They went to Super Bowl XXV in Tampa, Fla., in 1991. In their hotel room was a sign inviting them to a barbecue by the pool. Expecting burgers and hot dogs, Mr. Donchin’s dad walked around the pool twice and saw veal, shrimp, steak and lobster were being served. “He comes back to where we were sitting and said, ‘Now I know why they had to charge 2 million bucks for a spot on the Super Bowl. They need to feed you guys.’”
Mr. Donchin’s father has since passed away, and he remembers that trip fondly.
“My father always took me to watch the Giants play and lose in the cold of September, and here I am taking my father to the warmth of Florida to watch the Giants actually win the Super Bowl,” he said. “It’s the best thing I ever did in my life and something I always think about, and I’m so happy I did that.”

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