After Toby Byrne’s surprise exit last September, Fox Networks Group spent eight long months searching for a new ad sales chief. Finally, the company tapped Joe Marchese, its president of advanced advertising products, just five days before its May 15 upfront presentation. As president of advertising revenue, Marchese—who in Byrne’s absence had run the ad sales division alongside evp of ad sales Bruce Lefkowitz and evp of global partnerships Danielle Maged—now oversees Fox, Fox Sports, FX, FXX, National Geographic and Nat Geo Wild. He also spent the last year working with Turner and Viacom to create the audience-targeting platform OpenAP, which the companies hope will become the industry standard.
Marchese took a break from upfront negotiations to speak with Adweek about the state of the upfront market, his long wait for the job and how advertising is evolving under his watch.
Adweek: There had been debate over whether Fox’s next ad sales chief would be hands-on like Toby was, or more of a public face. How do you see your level of day-to-day involvement?
Joe Marchese: It will be more hands-on earlier, and then ideally, setting up an organization as I get a feel for everything. But there’s been a narrative in the marketplace I’ve been trying to combat for a long time, that TV isn’t scale. Or that TV can be effective, but it’s not efficient. This idea of giving up the high ground on terms like efficiency is crazy. Because they’re not 10-cent CPMs, all of a sudden, it’s not “efficient.” Where I’m going with that is, it’s not going to be just me that’s out there as a voice.
The hiring process took much longer than even Fox expected. What was that like for you, as the months unfolded and there still wasn’t a decision?
I always knew I was going to be participating in the upfronts, and helping to set a course. It felt like everything was moving; it was just a question of how everything was going to align on the other side of the upfronts. I always knew this was something I was really interested in helping to lead the group through, but I couldn’t say it was as stressful as it might have looked from the outside.
Just five days after getting the job, you were a big presence at Fox’s upfront event. How much of that was already in the works, and how much changed?
About half and half. I was still writing the day of. Going back a month, we had said that I was going to discuss some of the things we’re heading towards. Then once we made the announcement, we said, OK, I’ll do [more].
You gave Fox Sports an expanded spotlight that day, coming off its big year with the World Series and Super Bowl. Is that indicative of its position in this year’s upfront talks?
I don’t know about “expanded,” but I think the reality of where the advertising world is going to be is you have this balance between great storytelling—which is going to be [Fox Broadcasting Company]/FX/Nat Geo—and this scale of live sports. You take what Fox Sports did last year and add the Big 10 to it [this fall]—there’s a lot of people who know what the Ohio State-Michigan [football] game means—and say, great: you have this unparalleled scale, especially of live and concurrent viewers. That, blended with great storytelling, is a story that any brand should get excited about, so why wouldn’t we lead with that balance?
At the presentation, you rolled out several new ad initiatives. Which of them are you most excited about, especially as you go into the upfront market?
The fact that we won’t sell standard commercials on FX in any VOD platform anymore. Anything that hits the theme of, it’s better for the viewer and it’s better for the advertiser, we will commit resources to. If I’m a betting man—and I am—12 months from now, the brands you’re going to remember, I think we’ll show that viewers are more appreciative and view through more in that setting, which will actually lead to more inventory.
You’re in the thick of upfront talks now. How do you see the market shaking out?
You’ll see a market that’s slightly healthier than you might think. Again, taking back this word “efficiency,” the cost per what you get in what we’ll call a TV-on-any-platform impression, is actually the most efficient one you can buy. And as consumers start to restrict that supply—that’s not on FNG’s side, that’s the consumer saying, here’s how much we can take—I think that it’s still going to be in demand.
What new or returning programming has the most early excitement from buyers?
Any show that involves Marvel [like Fox’s first Marvel drama, The Gifted] is pretty exciting, and I, as a comic book nerd, can’t wait to see that come out. The FX programming, what People vs. O.J. did, people can’t wait for the next two in that [American Crime Story] series. That, mixed with sports … think about what that will mean this fall.
How is OpenAP factoring into the upfront talks?
OpenAP is removing one barrier to something that we were already doing. Everyone was already selling on precision audiences, but we were making the process having to be repeated over and over again. I think you’ll see a lot more audience-based buying, but it’s not the top priority of the upfront.
Between Empire’s Pepsi integrations and Beat Shazam, Fox has been involved in several innovative brand partnerships. How do you see those evolving, especially with All City, your new in-house marketing agency?
I’d like to see a lot more things that we call story stretches, where there is something that is created for a marketer that is not in the actual program, which is better for the marketer—because that segment can be used anywhere—and better for the program. If I’m a brand, I want to be able to sell my product, first and foremost. The thing that excites me the most is, could we take National Geographic, and make a spot for an SUV car company, and then it airs on Sunday football? A story integration doesn’t do that, and that is a huge advantage.