While he is among the most influential media buyers in the industry because he is a good negotiator and a brilliant marketplace tactician, at the root of his media buying philosophy is a sense of civics.
Recently, Mr. Mandel was tapped to serve as co-managing director of Grey Advertising's MediaCom, a new freestanding media services unit with about $2 billion in media billings. That assignment came after a year in which New York-based Grey racked up about $400 million in new media buying assignments from clients including Cendant Corp., Pharmacia & Upjohn, Reebok International and the WB Network -- not to mention retaining Kraft Foods' huge national TV buying assignment.
He's known as a marketplace tactician, but he also has played a key role in the development of Mediacom's Maxis system, an advanced media management system enabling the agency to optimize media schedules in real time.
Asked to explain his integral role in slowing down the buying process during the upfront selling season for children's programming, Mr. MandelÁwhose clients represent nearly a third of the kids TV marketplaceÁdoesn't boast about the good deals he got for those advertisers. Instead, he says he believes his negotiations helped the industry because they had a calming effect on other kids TV buyers and a moderating effect on market prices. As a result, his clients, their competitors and those selling the ad time benefitted, he says.
PREDICTING A SHIFT
It may be difficult for some of those TV networks to see it that way, after Mr. Mandel, aided by a few other kids TV buyers, seized control of what had been a protracted seller's marketplace in which children's advertisers for several years had experienced double-digit price increases.
Earlier this year, Mr. Mandel forecast a shift in the balance of marketplace power as new kids networks came on the scene, such as the Fox Family Channel, and as the supply of viewers increased on established and emerging channels such as the Cartoon Network.
"Over the past three, four, five years, the industry sort of lost sight of what this marketplace is really about. People kept doing business earlier and earlier and that created a sense of panic that pushed prices up," explains Mr. Mandel.
Mr. Mandel says it is in the networks' best interests, because the early-year kids' upfront deals often forced advertisers to buy more than they needed, causing them to cancel some commitments later.
CO-MANAGER OF MEDIACOM
"I don't think it is in the interest of the networks to move in January, or February, because advertisers don't know what their plans are," agrees Jon Nesvig, president of sales at Fox, who credits Mr. Mandel on his ability to "read the market," as well as his skills at "using the press, using his clients and using his dollars" to influence the market.
While Mr. Mandel is a ubiquitous industry pundit, his quotes and commentary rarely are mere observations. They are, as Mr. Nesvig points out, tactics for influencing the psychology of the marketplace. He says those comments carry a lot of weight because they always seem so rationale and often is a note of compassion for sellers in his statements.