Rino Scanzoni, Madison Avenue’s Influential Media Buyer, Will Tackle New Task as Advertising Shifts

Upfronts Seven Dollar Bill
Ryan Huddle for Variety

When TV’s next upfront market kicks off next Spring, the ad-sales chiefs at CBS, NBC, and the rest might breathe a sigh of relief: They won’t have to contend directly with Rino Scanzoni any longer.

Scanzoni, a tough negotiator, has for years helped set the tone and pace of a crucial market for the media sector, one in which $8 billion to $9 billion is traded on broadcast primetime TV alone, with more committed to cable, syndicated and Spanish-language television. After serving since 2005 as chief investment officer for the North American operations of GroupM, the large media-buying operation that is part of ad-holding giant WPP, Scanzoni is moving to a new role – and the shift is indicative of a transformation of how Madison Avenue is buying commercial inventory across all media.

GroupM, which works for advertisers including Unilever and American Express, on Monday named Lyle Schwartz to the role of president of investment, meaning he will oversee how advertiser dollars are allocated across TV, print, radio, digital, and local media, as well as the burgeoning swell of analytic tools advertisers are tapping to help them determine their allocations. He will report to Brian Lesser, the chief executive of GroupM North America. Schwartz will have a good deal of influence over how some $30 billion worth of advertising is spent across the U.S. and Canada.

“This is the first time someone with a research and analytics background has been named trading chief for a major media investment group,” said Lesser, in a prepared statement. “This decision underscores our belief that data and insights are fundamental to the success of the entire business.”

Advertisers of all stripes are relying more strongly on data about consumer behavior and buying to help them determine where to place their commercials. At a time when media use has become increasingly splintered, big-spending marketers like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola can no longer just follow what was standard practice three decades ago and buy a few ads in national newspapers and major magazines while spraying TV ads across the broadcast networks.

Advertising in the digital era means figuring out where the consumers most likely to buy, say, a luxury car or a can of diet root beer are most likely to lie in wait, and then tailoring commercials expressly for those particular environments. Viacom, Comcast’s NBCU and Time Warner’s Turner are among the big companies crafting their own data brews to lure sponsors to their fold. These data products can include everything from set-top box viewer behavior measures to consumer patterns discovered by examining loyalty cards and programs affiliated with drug stores and supermarkets. Some media companies are trying to set up deals based on these data agreements rather than ones based on Nielsen, the gold standard of an era when couch potatoes still stared at a TV screen in their living rooms.

Schwartz and Scanzoni have worked together for years, and were pivotal figures in discussions that in 2007 led to the use of so-called “commercial ratings,” or audience measures that looked at how many TV viewers watched commercial breaks, not the TV shows they interrupted, to determine how much media companies ought to be paid. The new system was created in the wake of the rise of digital video recorders, which allowed viewers to fast forward past commercials. Schwartz has more than 30 years of experience at WPP, including roles at the ad agency once known as Young & Rubicam before it was acquired by the holding company in 2000.

Scanzoni will supervise both Modi Media, a unit that looks at future TV models in the U.S. and Midas Exchange, a barter division that deals with the trade of tangible assets in exchange for advertising inventory. He will be executive chairman and chief executive of both units. GroupM said Scanzoni would “continue to build and expand new trading products as well as contribute to market strategy for the group.”

His role in the media industry played out largely behind the scenes, but he has been instrumental in how advertisers choose to support TV for decades. Top executives and Wall Streeters often sought his counsel on ad-spending patterns and the direction of the economy. Speculation that GroupM might find a successor for him has wafted for the past few years. It’s well known that the executive prefers to focus on strategy, rather than on incessant staff meeting and intense client hand-holding, and he has at times plotted strategy from a house in Utah.

Schwartz will work alongside Phil Cowdell,who was named GroupM’s president of platform services in North America. This new unit will deal with emerging ad markets, including programmatic, search marketing, social media, digital operations and digital analytics.  For the past two years, Cowdell served as the North American CEO of MediaCom,a GroupM unit where he has been instrumental in helping the agency win more than $1.5 billion in new business from companies including Anheuser-Busch InBev, Bayer, Sony Playstation and Mars.