Linda Yaccarino to Leave Time Warner's Turner

Colorful Ad-Sales Exec Led Efforts to Sell 'Conan,' More Relevant TV Commercials

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Linda Yaccarino
Linda Yaccarino

Linda Yaccarino, the colorful executive who has for years managed the charge to sell advertising on Time Warner 's TNT, TBS and TruTV cable networks, is leaving the company.

Ms. Yaccarino will pursue "new professional opportunities," according to an internal memo sent to employees of Time Warner 's Turner TV unit today by David Levy, president-sales, distribution and sports. She is slated to depart by the time her contract is up at the end of 2011.

An aggressive salesperson who rarely took "no" for an answer, Ms. Yaccarino has played no small role in Turner's broader strategy to get advertisers to consider TNT, TBS and TruTV as substitutes for broadcast-TV advertising. She helmed Turner's initiative, for instance, to convince marketers that the company's bid to mount a late-night show starring Conan O' Brien was worth the same ad prices as rival programming on NBC and CBS. When that plan was not bolstered by Mr. O' Brien's ratings over the past year, Ms. Yaccarino tried a new tactic: telling marketers that Mr. O' Brien's digital footprint was particularly worth considering.

Ms. Yaccarino has years of experience at Turner, having risen from her start there in syndication ad sales in 1993 to VP and sales manager for Turner Entertainment Sales in 1997 after a brief sojourn as VP for ad sales at CNBC. She began to move up the ladder in earnest in 1999, when she was named senior VP of ad sales. A decade later, in 2009, she was named exec VP-chief operating officer of Turner Entertainment ad sales, marketing and acquisitions.

As she approached the top, Ms. Yaccarino may have found less room to move further. Ad sales are overseen by Mr. Levy, another Turner veteran, while the networks' programming is more tied to Steve Koonin, president-Turner Entertainment Networks.

Under her aegis, Turner began to work furiously to help advertisers tie their commercials to relevant moments and themes in the various channels' programs. As part of an 18-month effort, Turner built new software and hired staff to "tag" specific segments on movies and TV shows running on its cable outlets. The result: letting advertisers know when the action on-screen would best help boost recall and likability for their ad messages.

In one maneuver that serves to illustrate Ms. Yaccarino's creative and hard-sell tendencies, Turner recently sifted through its reruns of old broadcast programs to find old product placements, then called the brands that had been integrated to ask if they'd like to buy commercials during their episodes' upcoming repeats.

Ms. Yaccarino's departure "creates an opportunity for us to review and refine the operating models for our Entertainment Ad Sales and Acquisitions functions," Turner's Mr. Levy said in his memo. Ad sales will report to Mr. Levy while program acquisition will report to Mr. Koonin.

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