Only 38 years old, Ms. Speciale is the exec VP-director of national and local broadcast at Grey Global Group's media arm. She supervises more than 75 media buyers, works with 70 accounts and spent more than $1 billion for Grey clients in national broadcast media last year. When her father, a retired adman from Providence, R.I., moved to New York to be near his daughter, he applied for a job at MediaCom.
Twist on nepotism
"We thought it would be really neat to break the nepotism rule here, which was established so that parents couldn't give their children jobs at the company," says Mr. Mandel. "There was nothing in the rulebook that said a daughter couldn't hire her father."
That just goes to show how powerful Ms. Speciale has become, both on the job and at home.
Probably her most incredible achievement, however, has been working for more than 12 years with MediaCom's mercurial Mr. Mandel, co-managing director and chief negotiating officer.
"She is a much calmer me," says Mr. Mandel. "She is a mini-me without the bad parts." Ms. Speciale's only ad job other than at Grey was at Leonard/Monahan, a small agency in Providence.
Ms. Speciale joined Grey Advertising in March 1989 as a senior network buyer on Fruit of the Loom, Playtex and Red Lobster. She quickly worked her way up the ranks.
"We have always put women in positions of power and authority at MediaCom," says Mr. Mandel, who hired Ms. Speciale. "They used to call the group I worked with the 'Mandelettes' because they were all young women. I was really offended by this. The fact is we have always been lucky because we have an incredibly smart group of people here, and a high percentage of them happened to be women."
Not only has Ms. Speciale been given the responsibility of stepping in to take over national broadcast buying, which was Mr. Mandel's job, but in January she was also handed the task of running local broadcast. An unusual combination -- most big media agencies keep these departments separate.
Prior to Ms. Speciale's assignment, MediaCom also kept them separate. "I think there is an opportunity here where both groups can come together," Ms. Speciale says. "Now that I have local and national, I'm trying to bring their worlds together. So if there are opportunities for local that advertising could take advantage of, I now can do it myself. Not that it couldn't be done before; it's just a lot easier to have money be fluid between those marketplaces."
Probably no one has watched Ms. Speciale as closely as her father. "I've watched her grow up in this business, and she has done very well for herself," says Mike Speciale. Does he get to see her daughter at the office. "She's got a big responsibility here at MediaCom as the person in charge of all broadcast. Even though we work in the same building, I very seldom see her here. We probably meet, maximum, three times a year to have lunch."
When she was growing up, were there any signs that she would become a big shot? "No, not really," says Mr. Speciale. "The only thing I noticed was that every time she walked into a room, she lit it up. She was always very sociable."