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Rino Scanzoni

No less an authority on TV and the advertising business
than GroupM CEO Irwin Gotlieb estimates that no one
has made media buys worth more money than Rino
Scanzoni, GroupM’s chief investment officer. “And that includes
me, by the way,” Gotlieb notes.

Not bad for an economics major from Queens College who wanted to direct
TV shows. Scanzoni says he entered the ad agency business at a time when
agencies and agency executives were more involved in creating programming.
He started as a media planner at Ted Bates, but quickly turned to buying. “I noticed
that the TV buyers had the big offices and looked like they didn’t have to
work too hard,” Scanzoni recalls. He moved
to BBDO before being hired by Gotlieb to
work at Benton & Bowles.

Gotlieb remembers the date: Nov. 15,
1978, the same day he moved into his first
house. “We at Benton & Bowles had gone
to a very, very analytical and quantitative approach
to the marketplace in our negotiating
strategies,” Gotlieb says. “And when I started
to talk to Rino about it, he not only got it instantly,
he got really excited about it.”

Gotlieb and Scanzoni became legendary
for negotiating based on the agency’s marketplace
models—and became known as
Batmen, for doing business in the wee hours.

“It was just amazing, the amount of data
he was able to cull and sift through,” recalls
Rob Tuck, executive VP for national sales at
The CW, who worked for Scanzoni at MediaVest.
“I never saw a mind work that way,
and it was very, very impressive.”

Mel Berning, who also worked for
Scanzoni at MediaVest and is now president
for ad sales at A+E Networks, notes
his ability to craft data into a pitch.
“Armed with a few facts, Rino’s always
been able to get into the market and be pretty persuasive,” Berning says.
“When the facts didn’t work, then he would get emotional. He can get very
excited and he gets even more persuasive when he gets excited.”

Making Scanzoni more persuasive still are the billions GroupM spends on
TV. “He isn’t afraid to take a position and lead the marketplace,” Berning
says. “You’re spending billions of dollars of advertisers’ money, and that takes
some courage, and Rino definitely has that courage.”

“He’s a straight shooter,” adds Tuck. “He’s not calling you up for adjustments
or anything. He does his deal and he moves on.”

Scanzoni used to do some of his best work before dawn. “In many cases
you had an advantage because the seller on the other side wanted to get it over
with because they had to start another day in a few hours,” he says. “Both
Irwin and I were night people anyway and probably created the insanity that
ensued where everyone was doing business at 4 o’clock in the morning.”

Scanzoni says he doesn’t do business that way anymore. Has he mellowed?
“Oh absolutely; he’s still a very skilled and very tough
negotiator but definitely mellowed,” says Jo Ann Ross,
president of sales for CBS. “He cares about the integrity
of the business and he cares that his clients are healthy
and that suppliers are healthy. It’s a balancing act, but he
really does care about the business very deeply.”

“I probably got worked up a lot more back when I
was in my 20s and 30s,” Scanzoni allows, but Gotlieb
notes Scanzoni “continues to be absolutely single-minded about ensuring that
his clients get the best deal available. He’ll wait you out, but he doesn’t beat
people up. There is a toughness, but there is a bit of a velvet glove that comes
from years of experience and knowing how to deal with people and the fact
that you have to deal with them again the following year.”

Still, some negotiations are tougher than others. This year, one of the last
major upfront deals done was between GroupM and Turner. David Levy,
president of sales, distribution and sports at Turner Broadcasting, who is also
being inducted into B&C’s Hall of Fame this year, has a reputation for feuding
with Scanzoni. “At one point in our negotiations, I said, ‘How can two entries
into the Hall of Fame not figure out a way to get an upfront deal done?’” Levy
says. But, he adds, he respects Scanzoni: “I think he’s one of the smartest
media heads in the business today. People may not like his tactics, but when
you’re on that side of the business you’re supposed to be that way.”

Levy praises Scanzoni’s enthusiastic investments in cable. Early on, Scanzoni
bought schedules on startup networks, securing anchor-tenant positions for
clients. “He’s been at the forefront of buying cable before cable was cool,”
Levy says. “A lot of business went his way because he was able to buy more
effectively” with cable.

Scanzoni also took an early position when Fox launched The Joan Rivers
in late-night. In the deal, his clients got rights to be in Fox’s primetime
lineup when it launched. “Those clients are probably getting dividends from
that today,” Scanzoni says.

Similarly he bought into barter syndication early, doing a seven-year deal
with The Oprah Winfrey Show. “It was so favorable that it was just unfair,”
Gotlieb says. “So we reduced the term.”

More recently, Scanzoni led the industry to adopt C3 ratings, which measure
live and delayed commercial viewing. “If we didn’t go to C3, the monetization
of viewing that generates a commercial exposure [on DVRs] couldn’t
be counted,” he says. “So I think that’s important.”

Tuck says Scanzoni was one of the first buyers to embrace The CW’s convergence
approach to selling commercials whether they air on TV or online.

“We’re going to eventually move to an aggregation model” that counts
viewing wherever it happens, says Scanzoni, who is working with Nielsen on
measurement that will “allow us to cume up the types of audiences that you
need for a viable free-enterprise system that’s advertiser-supported.”

Longtime client Steve Siskind, executive VP of worldwide marketing and
advertising at Paramount Pictures, says Scanzoni “holds onto an idea longer and
harder than anyone I know. He’s adept at recognizing the impact of technology
and he’s smart at finding good talent to fill in all his needs and make us better.”

These days, Scanzoni spends much of his time in Utah, but even on the
slopes he remains plugged in. “He’s as reachable as he was when he was here;
maybe even more so,” says Ross of CBS. “He works late, as he did when he
was here. I think that he’s happy looking at his mountains, and instead of
going to lunch and getting a bowl of pasta he’s probably eating yogurt and
granola and climbing a mountain or going out on his bike.”