A year later, Turner Broadcasting Sales is recasting itself as a team of swashbuckling TV sales executives who mercilessly negotiate tough deals for marketers to become associated with Mr. Turner's "intellectual properties."
The primary association with those properties is still ad units, of which Turner Broadcasting Sales sells more than 1 million each year, more than double that of its closest cable TV competitor.
But more often than not, those advertising opportunities are linked to some involvement with one or more of Turner's other marketing vehicles, whether it be a licensing arrangement with one of Turner's TV characters or movie titles, a merchandising endeavor with Turner Home Entertainment, or a product placement in a film being produced by Turner's New Line or Castle Rock movie studios.
The opportunities for linkage always existed and occasionally even came together under the old sales management, but absolute integration has been accelerated to a fine art under the direction of a man that Mr. Turner refers to as "my chief copyright exploiter."
That man is Steve Heyer, who last year left a senior management position at Young & Rubicam, New York, to run Turner Broadcasting Sales. The job had become one of the highest profile sales positions in the business and one that General Motors Corp. media czar Phil Guarascio came close to accepting, but passed on at the last moment.
Instead, Mr. Turner and his top lieutenant, Exec VP Terry McGuirk, turned to Mr. Heyer. Before joining Y&R, Mr. Heyer was a principal at management consultant Booz Allen & Hamilton, which had done extensive work for Turner, including a re-engineering of its sales organization.
The management work followed years of complaints from media buyers about the excessive tenacity and questionable business practices of the Turner sales team, but also was motivated by Mr. Turner's desire to extract increased value from his marketing portfolio.
Toward that end, Turner has enlisted Mr. Heyer to improve the overall quality of its advertising accounts, many of which have been grandfathered into cushy advertising rates that date back to BC: Before CNN.
Indeed, it was the initial advertising deals by major package goods marketers like Procter & Gamble Co., Colgate-Palmolive Co. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. that helped to jump start CNN and older sister channel TBS Superstation in the early 1980s.
But those early deals, cut at a fraction of the cost per thousands of the broadcast networks and many other cable networks, now are an onerous financial drain.
"My goal is to get that bottom quintile to either move up, or move off the Turner networks," Mr. Heyer recently told Advertising Age.
"Bottom quintile," is Mr. Heyer's term for the 20% of Turner accounts currently paying significantly below Turner's sense of its current marketplace value.
The challenge for Mr. Heyer is to walk the fine line between playing hardball on ad rates and convincing the marketers that they are getting enough new value to justify higher rates.
"At some point in the value of a long-term client relationship, there is a diminishing return," said Turner Exec VP-Entertainment Networks Joe Uva, who serves as de facto No. 2 to Mr. Heyer.
"Those advertisers have already gotten their value out of us for those early deals," Mr. Heyer said. "Now it's our job to get them to see the current value. Our job is not to say goodbye to that bottom quintile. Our job is to get them all to come up."
Mr. Heyer wouldn't disclose how big the spread currently is between Turner's rates for the bottom 20% and its overall average, but he said "It's big."
To close the gap, Mr. Heyer has spent the past 12 months integrating every facet of the Turner organization that might be of value to a marketer, but which hasn't been traditionally sold by the ad sales team. Some opportunities, such as home video merchandising tie-ins with Turner Home Entertainment, have been sold by other divisions without any integration with Turner's ad sales team.
Now, every Turner unit works in concert, communicating all marketer relationships and negotiations with each other through a new Client & Market Development Group overseen by Mr. Uva.
To achieve such integration, Turner has completely revamped its back-office administrative functions with a state-of-the-art computer tracking system that enables Turner sales and marketing executives to check on the current status of advertising accounts and the various inventories of Turner properties at the push of a button, whether they are in the office, or in the field.
"We've become an information-rich group of people. And a group of people that can access information on a client before meeting them in order to meet client's needs," said Larry Goodman, exec VP-news and operations at Turner's sales organization.
Previously, Mr. Goodman said Turner sales executives had to go outside to third-party sources to pull together data on clients for marketing and sales presentations, whereas now they have access to a database and a voluminous tome of marketing information that the Turner sales executives refer to as the "product pipeline."
The pipeline is the basis for all the integrated marketing deals Turner sales is developing, and includes precise information on tie-ins that are available with every Turner media property and how they might fit a particular client's needs.
Mr. Heyer declined to discuss any actual deals developed under the new sales program, because of client sensitivities. Because the deals usually involved extensive promotional elements that require long lead times, most of the pending deals are still too proprietary in nature to disclose.
"They are more of a marketing solutions company now than they were before," said Lauren Heller, director of media services at Turner client Taco Bell.
Ms. Heller declined to spell out what kind of deal her company has negotiated with Turner under the Heyer system, but said, "I don't look at them as just a media vendor now. They offer more now than just media buys. They offer me solutions to my marketing requirements.'
Joe Mandese coordinates MediaWorks.