New TVB Boss Lanzano Suggests Steps to Recovery

It may not be the ideal time to become the lead seller of local broadcast TV, but Steve Lanzano, the new president of the Television Bureau of Advertising, is a believer.

“If you ran a TV campaign, the faucet opened up; products came off the shelf,” explained Lanzano, the former chief operating officer of MPG.

Lanzano may be a believer in local TV advertising, but he’s also a realist. Just a few days into his new role, the agency vet is drawing on his 28 years of experience on the other side of the negotiation desk to help the medium dig out from the worst ad recession in 20 years.

Since he was named to succeed Chris Rohrs, Lanzano has been conducting what he calls “due diligence” meetings with all 37 of TVB’s board members, as well as talking to TV stations that aren’t members to find out what is and isn’t working in their ad sales strategy.

“Our mission is to sell local broadcast. The TVB needs an organization that gets as many feet on the street as possible,” said Lanzano. “Stations look to us to set the table.”

Even though revenue will be up in 2010 thanks to elections and the Olympics, the spending of TV’s core advertising base will not rise to the level of spending TV stations enjoyed in the mid-1990s. “We need to look at what advertisers either reduced their spending in spot, what advertisers have walked away, and what opportunities there are to get them back in,” said Lanzano.

Top ad category automotive, for example, dropped from spending $3.46 billion on stations in 2000 to $2.9 billion in 2008, according to a TVB analysis of TNS data.  

One of the biggest challenges for TV stations will be to stop the flow of local dollars into cable and back to national TV. The efficiencies of network buys have been alluring. “We have to stop the migration,” he continued, knowing all too well the cost-per-point efficiencies of a network buy. “We have to show the ROI of spot.”

Lanzano pointed to groups such as Nexstar Broadcast Group and Sinclair Broadcast Group that have been moving away from selling against traditional TV ratings towards selling with ROI-type research. “We have to use different types of metrics,” he said. “So our job will be digging into what kinds of research sources are out there. It will be a different metric and a different way of selling.”  

A big part of making TV spot easier to buy and more competitive with networks and digital media is the two year-old ePort, TVB’s electronic eBusiness solution. Though nearly $600 million of business was transacted last year, Lanzano acknowledged there is a long way to go to achieve wider adoption. “ePort becomes even more vital when you talk about multiplatform solutions,” he said. “Unfortunately adoption by third-party processors, such as Donovan, hasn’t moved as quickly as we’d like.”

At the same time stations push ePort and ROI over ratings, they will also need to reexamine their sales organizations to better position themselves to advertisers. “We need to look into whether station sales are structured properly and have enough feet on the street. On a national level, clients are talking about integrated solutions, and we need to help stations put together local platform opportunities to make it easier to sell.”

Wrap it all together, and Lanzano’s going to have a busy year indeed.

For an extended look at Spot TV’s Top 5 Ad Categories of 2000-08, click here.