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The Five Spot: Bruce Lefkowitz

As Fox Networks Group’s executive VP for advertising sales, Bruce Lefkowitz is in the pivot in a fast-changing market. Formerly a cable guy who came up through Turner and then supervised sales for FX, Lefkowitz now has a portfolio that includes broadcast, cable, sports and digital—a good first stop for advertisers, he says.

A native of Westchester County, N.Y., Lefkowitz was an All-Ivy League basketball player for the University of Pennsylvania. Summer internships at MSG Network under mentor Joe Cohen introduced him to ad sales. When he was done playing pro ball in Europe, he got into the Turner training program, learning from B&C Hall of Famers Lou LaTorre and David Levy.

Lefkowitz joined Fox in 2002. “The rest is history,” he says.

An edited transcript of his conversation with B&C business editor Jon Lafayette follows.

How does the ad market look right now?

Advertisers have greater challenges to reach their target audiences at scale. They need to find the optimal mix between linear, non-linear, programmatic, all the elements to maximize the ROI on their plan. The upfront was very strong. I think that there was a little bit of a reticence from advertisers to plow money into fourth quarter until the election was over. Now we’re starting to see spending. The calendar market is equally strong to the broadcast upfront. That’s also a good sign.

Fox talks about ad innovation. What are you doing to make advertising work better?

You have to start with content, because content is absolutely the magnet for consumers and it’s the core of the media ecosystem to me. Once you gain their attention, then the quality of environment for ads improves. So whether it’s limited ad loads, branded content, what we’re trying to do is provide more value and/or a better viewing experience for our consumers. Because if we can do that, it should improve the impact of the advertising in there. The truth is all of us are still in the first inning of the ad innovation game or revolution.

Fox is promoting the awards its shows won. Is that important to advertisers?

It just underscores us as a place that’s doing interesting things and noteworthy things. And people want to be associated with that. When you look at the three biggest Emmy award winners, you can’t buy HBO, you can’t buy Netflix, but you sure can have your ads in a quality environment on FX and on Fox. For us, that is an important differentiator.

Did you have fun with the World Series?

With the excitement and the success that we had— literally in the middle of Game 6, we started selling for game 7—the job that my team did was honestly a highlight of my career. The Cubs winning reinforces my hope that in my lifetime the Jets can win a Super Bowl.

Are the NFL’s ratings issues affecting sales?

No, because it’s not hyperbole to say that there’s nothing like the Super Bowl, from a creative standpoint, from a business standpoint, to the media strategy. There is no bigger stage. Our World Series success was really driven by the matchup. The Super Bowl [to air Feb. 5 on Fox] is never about matchup. We’re in a really good position so far. We haven’t seen any problems with demand. Every day, every week, we continue to write more Super Bowl business.