Donna Speciale Jumps to Turner

MediaVest pro will oversee entertainment, animation sales

Another preeminent media agency veteran has hopped over to the other side of the negotiating table, as MediaVest ace Donna Speciale has accepted the top ad sales post at Turner Broadcasting System’s entertainment division.

As president, Turner Entertainment & Animation Ad Sales, Speciale will lead the charge for the company’s suite of entertainment, kids and youth networks, which includes TNT, TBS, truTV, Cartoon Network and Adult Swim. She also will spearhead Cartoon Network Enterprises, a commission that includes overseeing consumer products, licensing, home video/DVD and retail development.

Speciale arrives in the wake of former entertainment sales chief Linda Yaccarino, who left Turner in October to assume the role of president, cable entertainment and digital advertising sales for NBCUniversal. In so doing, Yaccarino effectively ousted Dave Cassaro, a 21-year Comcast vet who was given oversight of all NBCU cable sales in November 2010.

One of the most highly regarded thinkers in the media agency space, Speciale represents a substantial addition to Turner’s ad sales mosaic. As president, investment and activation and agency operations at MediaVest, Speciale counted Coca-Cola, Kraft, Mars, Procter & Gamble and Walmart among her client roster. A shrewd negotiator, she choreographed the February 2010 deal that brought Turner’s $155 million media business to MediaVest. 

Speciale’s transition to her new role coincides with a major restructuring within the Turner sales regiment.

Under the revamped org chart, longtime CNN sales capo Greg D’Alba is being elevated to the newly formed position of president, News and Turner Digital Ad Sales. While D’Alba will retain oversight of CNN’s sales operations, he is also charged with managing inventory for Turner’s entire portfolio of digital platforms, across news, entertainment, sports and animation.

Among the senior sales execs now reporting to D’Alba are evp of digital ad sales Walker Jacobs, who will manage digital and mobile ad sales across Turner’s news, sports, entertainment, kids and youth brands. Meanwhile, Katrina Cukaj is being promoted from svp to evp of CNN Ad Sales; she too reports to D’Alba.

Reporting to Speciale are: Frank Sgrizzi, who will oversee ad sales for TNT and TBS as evp of Turner Entertainment Ad Sales; Joe Hogan, who assumes the newly created position of evp, truTV, Cartoon & Adult Swim Ad Sales; and Lenny Daniels, who adds Turner Sports Ad Sales to a litany of responsibilities that includes overseeing programming, scheduling, production, marketing, strategy and operations.  

Both Speciale and D’Alba report directly to David Levy, president of sales, distribution and sports for TBS Inc.  

“Realigning our sales operations will allow for greater integration of our businesses and leading portfolio of brands to better serve our advertising partners,” Levy said. “I’m excited about the people we have selected to lead these areas.” 

Levy and D’Alba have worked together at Turner for more than 20 years. 

“Greg and Donna will make a dynamic team,” Levy said. “I am looking forward to partnering with them in their new roles and responsibilities.”

Speciale joined MediaVest in January 2004. Ironically, she replaced outgoing broadcast buyer Mel Berning, who left the agency to steer ad sales at A&E Networks.

The list of media buyers and agency honchos who have gone over to the network sales side is not inconsiderable. Most recently, MagnaGlobal president and CEO Elizabeth Herbst-Brady departed the agency to assume the role of evp, ad sales strategy for MTV Networks’ Music & Logo and Entertainment Groups.