Yet he carries a priceless reputation among TV buying circles and is respected for being creative and knowledgeable.
"He's somebody you pay attention to," says Larry Hoffner, NBC's exec VP-sales.
As evidence of being someone deserving attention, the press frequently turns to Mr. Mandel for opinions on TV, ratings and advertising.
A search of a news service database found that from January through mid-August, he has been quoted in 32 stories in major U.S. newspapers and magazines, as well as Canada's Ottawa Citizen.
Any prestige Mr. Mandel has in the business, he believes, must be shared by the entire media department at Grey Advertising, New York.
"It's clout but its sort of socialist clout," says Mr. Mandel, senior VP-director of national broadcast. "It's not so much creative buying as it is creating an environment where we can come up with creative solutions."
He has had 21 years-his stint at Grey and at media buying-to create such environments and a list of blue-chip clients-Domino's Pizza, Kraft Foods, Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America and Slim-Fast Foods Co.-to handle.
But as important as the client's needs are the seller's.
"What I try to do is understand the marketer's market problem and the seller's selling problem and find the best deal," he says. "You have to motivate the seller to go the extra mile for you; you have to understand the seller's problem."
There were marketing and selling dilemmas several years ago, when all the spots during the Super Bowl were sold and NBC, which aired the game, had promised Canon USA's competitor it wouldn't sell slots to the competition. The solution: Mr. Mandel purchased time between the announcement of the teams and the kickoff.
"It bought a Super Bowl audience at a pre-game price," he says. "It was so successful that [the networks] now sell many minutes of pre-kick advertising."
This kind of innovation has earned him the reputation as a knowledgeable and major player in the media biz.
Mr. Mandel considers respect for sellers the cornerstone of his buying strategy-an idea that has won him the respect of sellers in return.
"It's really tough to do something like this. He understands both sides of the business," Mr. Hoffner contends.
"He understands it from the client side and he understands it from the network side. He has a strong presence in the business."