Zenith Turns to Nitti to Remake Media Buying

Charged with knocking down more media silos

After kicking down the walls between its magazine and digital divisions a year ago in an effort to respond to consumers’ rapidly shifting media habits, Zenith Media is now doing the same demolition to its local and national broadcast silos.

The Publicis Groupe buying shop is combining national broadcast with online video to create a national video team. This comes after spending a good part of the year unifying its local buying operations, folding local broadcast into an already-merged newspaper and out-of-home operation.

To lead the revamp, Zenith has turned again to its digital expert, John Nitti, who integrated print and digital a year ago. In January, Nitti will move into the newly created role of president of activation, overseeing digital, print, national and local broadcast, and out of home.

“We really look to have one voice in the marketplace,” says Dave Penski, president of Zenith USA. “We’ve made these more media-agnostic employees, and we needed someone to lead that. John’s got a great background for that.” Nitti hopes to encourage more integration among media sellers. “You can choose to do things separately behind the scenes,” says Nitti. “But with our agency, it should be holistic."

Supporting Nitti will be Neil Vendetti, who was promoted to managing director of national video. Taking over for Nitti at the integrated magazine-digital unit will be James Kiernan, who joined Zenith over the summer after spending several years in digital media roles at ESPN and MediaVest. Ava Jordhamo, who has lead the national broadcast group, is moving into a newly created role of president of Zenith New York to help support the growing staff, which now numbers 500.

Both local media and national broadcast have challenges when it comes to integration. At the local level, there’s a lot of variation by client. “Each account is unique on a local level,” Penski said. “Not every client buys every single market.” As for unifying buying on the broadcast end, many advertisers still haven’t figured out how to customize their creative for online video. Meanwhile, buying standards haven’t completely been defined, making the process labor-intensive.

Other agencies have been moving in the same direction as Zenith. Omnicom Media Group’s Novus Media is trying to reinvent itself as a cross-channel local retail and direct response company. MediaVest has trained its media buyers across platforms through its “Cross-Athletes” program. And GroupM has consolidated print and local buying units.