National TV Chief Donna Wolfe Out at UM

After putting in thirteen years as the senior national television buyer at Universal McCann, Donna Wolfe is leaving the agency.

Effective immediately, Wolfe’s duties will be divided between co-executive vps of national broadcast, Dani Benowitz and Catherine Warburton. Benowitz previously served as senior vp, national broadcast buying for J3, the standalone Johnson & Johnson organization within UM. Warburton also had been a senior vp-level national TV buyer, having overseen the Sony account since March 2005.

Both buyers report to Jacki Kelley, president, UM North America.

In addition to retaining J&J oversight, Benowitz will also handle Nationwide, Dyson, Kohl’s and the U.S. Army. Nationwide re-upped with UM in July, following a seven-month review, while Dyson joined the fold in May.

Benowitz previously was responsible for all J&J’s general market, Hispanic television and digital investments. In her six years at UM, Benowitz has generated over $550 million in billing.

Warburton will continue to tend to the Sony account, while adding Microsoft, Charles Schwab, Bacardi and L’Oreal. UM won the $100 million Schwab account in July.

Client support for the BMW account will continue to be managed by senior vp, national broadcast Annette Cerbone.

Kelley confirmed the moves on Wednesday. As is generally the case when an agency makes any major staffing changes, UM’s clients were looped in before the official word came down in-house.

“The thinking is, we have two very capable executives who are ready to take on more responsibility, so it made much more sense to promote them both,” Kelley said. She added that Wolfe will stay on with UM for a brief transitional period.

“Donna’s dedication to UM is unparalleled, and we are grateful for her service and her commitment,” Kelley said.

A 21-year McCann-Erickson veteran, Wolfe most recently served as executive vp, chief negotiations officer, where she oversaw national and local broadcast, as well as print and radio. She began managing McCann’s national TV accounts in 1997, when she was promoted to executive vp and national broadcast director.

Prior to that, Wolfe had been senior vp and director for national television. She joined McCann in 1987, from Ted Bates & Co., where she handled national TV buying for Panasonic, Prudential and M&M.

Kelley said that splitting the TV buying duties should help UM better serve its clients, who are increasingly seeking a more collaborative relationship with their agency partners.
“This is about being able to lead our clients into the future,” Kelley said. “They want innovation, they want to be ahead of what’s coming next. And so there’s increasing pressure to deliver results and create more value, and often that comes with less investment.”

Not that UM has had to endure much in the way of pullback. Last year, billings were up 11 percent to $7.1 billion. “We’ve been very fortunate in that many clients are looking at this as a period of opportunity to increase their market share,” Kelley said. “Some are actually doubling down.”