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Lawenda: Univision Still in Ad Growth Mode

David Lawenda oversees sales and marketing for the Univision and TeleFutura broadcast networks, eight cable networks, Univision Interactive Media, and Univision Local Media, which includes 62 TV stations and 70 radio stations. Overall, he is responsible for annual ad revenues that total about $2.5 billion and he manages a sales staff of more than 800 across the country.

Since joining Univision in 2007, the company's president of advertising sales and marketing has fully integrated and consolidated Univision's sales structure across all of its media platforms. One of his major accomplishments was the creation of the company's Client Development Group, which works with the sales staffs of each platform to offer advice to about 400 advertising accounts.

Upfronts are just around the corner and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. announced recently that it is partnering to start a new Spanish-language broadcast network in the U.S. this fall. Lawenda talked to B&C contributor John Consoli about the competitive environment in the Hispanic ad marketplace and how he sees Univision's position in it.

Given the current economic climate, what is your outlook on the 2012 upfront marketplace overall and for Univision?
I'm very optimistic. Univision is operating from a position of incredible strength. Over the past few years we have activated more than 200 new advertising brands and for us the market is still largely untapped. We are still in major growth mode. As far as the economy, unemployment is slowly declining and consumer confidence is growing. Some manufacturers have had their best months recently.

What is Univision doing to prepare for this year's upfront?
We are putting on our usual full-court press. We are doing our one-on-one meetings with clients and their agencies. We started that in the fourth quarter already so that we could begin meeting with them at the beginning of their budget planning processes for the coming year. Since we have multiple platforms to sell-broadcast, cable, online, radio-we want to show our current advertisers how they can expand their exposure and to show new clients how they can get started with us.

How do your client development groups within Univision help bring in new advertisers and assist current clients?
We began forming these groups about three years ago and each year we've continued to expand them. We basically went out into the industry and hired away some of the best experts from media agencies, and clients themselves. We now have over 60 people organized by categories. We have a team for each major category. They act as consultants for each client in their category. We have client development teams for packaged goods, financial services, automotive, telecom, restaurants, entertainment and pharmaceuticals and healthcare. They do everything from providing the clients with research and consumer insight information to helping them actually put together plans that can help them grow their business by using our various platforms. They are sort of an extension of each client's media agency.

What ad categories is Univision strongest in and where do you still need to make inroads?
We have been historically strong in the auto category; over the past few years that category softened for us, but now that money is coming back. We started to make some big gains in the pharmaceutical and healthcare categories over the past year. And while soft drinks, entertainment and packaged goods have always been strong, we are growing those categories also. In packaged goods in particular, we are continuously activated new brands.

Univision executives attended the Consumer Electronics Show this year. What were your goals there?
We had some very productive meetings while we were there. The electronics and tech categories can be a major area of ad growth for us going forward.

What is the status of your new networks and what role will they play in bringing in more ad revenue?
Univision Deportes, our new sports network, will be premiering sometime in second quarter. We have more Mexican League soccer than any other network so that will be popular for viewers. Every one of our current sports advertisers on Univision is participating with ad campaigns in the new sports network. Our telenovela network will be premiering the end of February. As you know, novelas are a mainstay for Hispanic viewers. They can't get enough of them. Most of the content on this network will be novelas produced by Televisa, but we also have our own studio. The third network, our news network, Univision Noticias, will premiere sometime in the first half of this year, but I can't give a specific month at this point.

How is distribution for those networks so far?
It's moving along but is still a work in progress. Our deal earlier this month with DISH Network was a big step. As part of that deal, DISH will distribute all three channels.

What do you say to marketers who believe they can reach bilingual Hispanics by advertising on English-language television?
The most effective way to reach the Hispanic audience is through their culture. Our content reflects their roots. It is culturally relevant to them. Seventy-five percent of all Hispanics speak Spanish at home. And 42 of the Top 50 most watched shows by bilingual Hispanic audiences are on Univision. And we are now regularly beating at least one if not two or three of the English-language networks in primetime on various nights of the week in the 18-49 demo. Last year we beat NBC on 195 nights in the 18-49 demo and Fox on 107 nights with our shows in the 18-49 demo.

Have the media agencies noticed this and how have they responded?
More and more we are on the radar and on the minds of the media agencies and their advertising clients. In my meetings with these executives, they are looking at Univision as a clear alternative to the English-language networks. We have an audience that is 70% unduplicated so we are telling them that they can extend their reach for their products and do it with an exclusive audience. And the ad buy is much more cost efficient.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. just announced that it is partnering with Colombia's RCN Television Group on a network to be called Mundo Fox. It's projected to launch this fall and reach 75% of U.S. households. How do you view this new network as a competitor?
Competition is nothing new to us. There is already a lot of competition in this space. We see this new network as increasing the attention toward Hispanic consumers and the Hispanic community. It will benefit everyone. As far as competing with us for ad dollars, we have a 50-year relationship with our viewers. They know our brand and we're going to remain focused with our mission. We are going to continue creating our content and new programming. That's not to deny that we aren't aware of the announcement and aren't looking over our shoulder. But right now we are the dominant player in the Hispanic TV marketplace and we will remain laser focused on continuing to serve our viewers and advertisers.