Fox Ends Long Vacancy Atop Ad Sales by Tapping Joe Marchese

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Joe Marchese.
Joe Marchese. Credit: Fox Networks Group

After a drawn-out process that left plenty of TV ad executives scratching their heads, Fox Network Group has named Joe Marchese to lead its ad sales division.

As president of advertising revenue, Marchese will lead the sales operations as well as ad products and operations, which he had been heading prior.

The decision comes as Fox prepares to make its annual upfront pitch to Madison Avenue next week.

While Marchese had long been the favorite in the marketplace to assume the post vacated by Toby Byrne last September, he isn't necessarily a traditional choice.

Marchese has been vocal about the need for the TV industry to clean up the ad model by reducing commercial loads and delivering messages that are more relevant and interesting to viewers.

With his appointment, it is expected Fox will dive head-first into more experimentation with ad formats, like the engagement model that asks viewers to interact with a commercial at the top of a show streaming over the web on in video on demand in return for an ad-free or reduced commercial experience.

"You will hear a lot about charting a course where if we work together we can all win," Marchese said. "If you can improve the consumer experience enough brands can become the heroes again."

But in order to do that, the industry "has to be willing to look beyond traditional metrics," he said. Instead of doing deals that revolve around the price to reach 1,000 viewers, the standard known as CPMs, he wants to focus on metrics that are better proxies for attention or effectiveness.

Fox is one of the three founding members of OpenAP, a consortium working to standardize audience buying on TV that also includes rival network groups Viacom and Turner.

Marchese also believes the "commercial load can get incredibly low," noting that Fox has been able to do things with a single sponsor in digital in VOD.

And the shift to delivering more linear TV feeds via the internet will further networks' ability to deliver ads one-to-one and track outcomes for marketers, he said.

While Marchese may have some grand ideas for innovating the ad model, it doesn't change one of the biggest issues: making the math work. As networks reduce the amount of commercial time they sell, they are increasing prices on the remaining inventory in order to hold ad revenue steady. Marketers are hesitant to pay more for taking over a commercial pod, however, because it is unclear whether spending four times more will result in a four times the return on investment.

Marchese acknowledges that legacy pricing and deals won't change overnight, and only a small number of marketers will initially buy into the tests around ad products and commercial loads.

Marchese co-founded the ad tech firm TrueX, which Fox acquired in February 2015. He joined Fox shortly after the acquisition closed in the newly created role of president of advanced ad products.

Fox has been without a clear ad sales leader for eight months, long enough for buyers to begin to assume that the company would enter the industry's crucial annual upfront negotiations without naming Byrne's replacement. Since Byrne left the company, ad sales efforts have been divided among Marchese, Bruce Leftkowitz, exec VP-ad sales, and Danielle Maged, exec VP-global partnerships. Maged will continue reporting to Randy Freer, Fox Networks Group's president and chief operating officer.

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