Donna Speciale Jumps to Sales, Joins Time Warner's Turner

Top Buyer for P&G and Coke Will Pitch Conan, "Southland"

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Donna Speciale
Donna Speciale

A top industry ad buyer who has Procter & Gamble's muscle behind her is moving to the sales side.

In a surprise move, Time Warner 's Turner cable unit announced that Donna Speciale -- who for years has supervised ad placement for blue-chip marketers including Procter, Masterfoods, Kraft Foods and Coca-Cola at Publicis Groupe 's MediaVest USA -- will join Turner's ranks as president of ad sales for its TNT, TBS, TruTV and Cartoon Network outlets. Turner also said Greg D'Alba, a veteran executive who has led ad sales for CNN, would become president of ad sales for not only all CNN venues, but also Turner digital properties and direct-response business.

The moves follow the departure of Linda Yaccarino, who had led entertainment ad-sales at Turner for many years, only to decamp to take over cable and digital sales at NBC Universal in late 2011.

Ms. Speciale, known among colleagues and ad-sales executives as "Donna Spesh," is one of the best-known ad buyers in the industry, and top ad-sales honchos from Fox, Discovery and many other media outlets are regularly spotted trying to court her favor at industry events and galas.

Ms. Speciale, who rose at MediaVest to become president-investment, activiation and agency operations for the buying unit's U.S. operations, supervises national and local video investment, as well as publishing, digital and out-of -home buying. Under her aegis, MediaVest pushed for clients to consider buying "video" rather than simple TV, even as she pushed for aggressive integrations of her clients into popular TV-network fare.

Without Ms. Speciale, for example, the CW network would likely not have had as glitzy a debut when it came on the air in the fall of 2006. CW executives including Bill Morningstar, then head of ad sales, courted Ms. Speciale and Brian Terklesen, who now oversees branded-entertainment intiatives for MediaVest's parent company, and persuaded them to align Procter & Gamble products with CW's debut week of programming. The result: "content wraps," or promotions that ran the length of an entire commercial break and looked much like programming.

Prior to joining MediaVest in January 2004, Ms. Speciale the led broadcast investment team at WPP's Mediacom.

For its part, MediaVest said it has promoted Christine Merrifield to president for video investment and activation at MediaVest USA, effective immediately. Ms. Merrifield will oversee video investment and activation across broadband, broadcast, cable, local and out-of -home as well as investment operations. She was previously exec VP-director of video investment & activation at MediaVest, which included supervising upfront and scatter negotiations with TV networks.

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