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Mandel in the middle

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Jon Mandel is the first-ever chairman of NATPE to come from the ad agency industry. But that doesn't mean the longtime Grey Global Group media executive, currently co-managing director of its media buying arm MediaCom, is known for diplomacy. Mr. Mandel, 49, tends to say what he really thinks, even as he presides over the National Association of Television Program Executives during one of the most embattled years of the organization's existence. Major domestic syndicators' decision to abandon the exhibit floor at this week's NATPE Conference & Exhibition is akin to an insurrection. Here, Mr. Mandel's thoughts on NATPE's present and future are discussed with writer Catharine P. Taylor:

Advertising Age: How did you get this NATPE role anyway?

Jon Mandel: NATPE asked me to join this board and one thing led to another and here I am: an advertising guy who is chairman of NATPE in one of the worst advertising environments of all time.

NATPE faces major challenges-domestic syndicators have already left the floor, and now people are questioning the traditional January timing of the convention.

From what I do [as a media-buying executive, the January timing] doesn't necessarily make sense in the sense that I may not have the [ad] budgets [together yet]. So yes, it may be the wrong time for selling in the sense that people don't have their budgets yet, but [it does make sense] they're able to focus one-on-one with you.

What's the percentage of advertisers and agencies at the show?

This year [NATPE attendees will represent companies controlling] close to 90% of the advertising dollars. So from that standpoint I think it's important that people be there.

Where do you think NATPE should be held in the future? How would it be run?

The `where' I don't know. If it's also broken down into smaller conventions that allow you to be in different cities, you don't have to do New Orleans or Vegas.

A lot of people say why don't you go to where the advertisers are, so have it in New York.

The advertising agencies are in New York; the advertisers are in Ohio. Seventy percent of [MediaCom's] business is from companies that are outside of the New York area. You want to see the people who spend the money? Go to a NATPE convention or get your scrawny white butt on an American Eagle flight and fly around this country.

Where would the exhibition floor be, or would there even be one?

The international people have been very clear that they want a floor at this point. ... There are certain unifying themes that go across all of the [groups], but then there are very different things that they want and they need, and NATPE will figure out how to do it. It may be three conventions, it may be five conventions. It may be seminars.

What have you heard from agencies?

I've heard conflicting things. Some advertising people think they would like to have something around the same time as the upfronts [in the spring], because then they'll have budgets, they can do deals. But then I have other guys [at agencies] who say that I want to have something in February, because I can sit down one-on-one.

What are the prospects for NATPE combining with another association on the convention?

Part of the issue is you have a lot of associations ... so everyone will fight doing a combined thing. At the end of the day it's about the same thing: build an audience and sell that audience.

It sounds like you don't think combining events is going to happen.

Associations have commitments over the years to different cities, [but joining forces is] too damn logical and elegant and it's too simple.

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