The Strategists: TV’s Top Media Planners

Related: Planners Say Human Insights Needed in a Programmatic World

Related: Gadgets Altering Planners’ View of Video Universe


Title: Senior VP, managing partner, brand strategy, Horizon Media

Originally from: Watertown, Mass.

College: University of New Hampshire

Getting into the business: “I always wanted to be in advertising,” says Aiello, who worked on the Garanimals kids clothing line before interviewing with the woman who became her first boss at Horizon. “I left thinking I didn’t have the job, and I was so disappointed,” she says. But “my recruiter called and said she wanted me. So here I am, many, many years later.”

Recent interesting campaign: Aiello works on the Geico account and helped integrate the insurer’s Hump Day campaign into a variety of media. In movie theaters, Caleb the Camel reminded people to silence their cellphones, delivering Geico’s message in an entertaining way. And with last New Year’s falling on a Wednesday—hump day—the brand did its first broadcast integration with Carson Daly’s NBC show. Geico invited revelers to take a picture of themselves with Caleb and share it with friends on social media. “That was not just entertaining but facilitated sharing during that period, a really strong period for auto insurance,” she says. “So it was a great way to kick off the year. It caught on.”

Favorite TV Show: “There’s so much good content out there, which makes our jobs so exciting,” she says. “I’m a huge Walking Dead fan.” Aiello was behind on Mad Men, but watched the finale live. “I didn’t want to hear about it from anyone else.”


Title: Group account director, PHD

Originally from: Chicago

College: University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana

Getting into the business: “Like a lot of kids, I liked the commercials that were on TV,” says Bell. He went into the Illinois ad program thinking he would be a copywriter but emerged a media planner. “I didn’t even know it existed when I went there. But I’m pretty good at math, so I took to it pretty readily.”

Recent interesting campaign: Bell works on the SC Johnson account. He is doing more digitalcentric campaigns with lots of data opportunities, rather than using more traditional one-way platforms. “What we know about the behavior and how we can control exposures is nothing like the world I entered in this business. The data has changed the job. It’s not just a matter of being able to put numbers into nice charts. It’s about looking inside those numbers and figuring out what it’s trying to tell us that isn’t obvious,” he says. But he warns that, “Any advantage you have is seemingly short-lived. And as the competition figures it out, they adapt. You need to be one step ahead of them.”

Favorite TV show: “Right now it’s Ray Donovan. I was a huge Justified and Sons of Anarchy fan,” Bell says. “I gravitate to outlaws of some sort. Actually, I gravitate to really good writing.”


Title: Senior VP, group director, Optimedia

Originally from: Manhattan

College: NYU

Getting into the business: “I have a background in psychology and economics,” says Chin. “A friend’s father was working at Chiat/Day as we were navigating where our futures might go and he asked, ‘Hey, did you ever think of media?’” Chin had not heard much about media planning, but explored it and landed his first job at DMB&B. “The cool thing about marketing is it absolutely leverages human behavior, so I get to blend the scientifi c and the creative at the same time,” he says.

Recent interesting campaign: A campaign revitalizing Whirlpool Corp.’s Maytag brand using a new Maytag Man won two Effies for effective advertising, as well as an Addy. And a new campaign for the Whirlpool brand features Johnny Cash singing “You Are My Sunshine.” Optimedia Insights’ work found that the brand could make an emotional connection through music. The campaign is about everyday care, and a cross-channel campaign urged consumers to submit videos dedicating the song to someone who cared for them. It elicited hundreds of videos from consumers. “It’s more than just registering for something. You had to perform the song,” Chin says. The winning video was featured in a commercial during the Grammy Awards. “It was much more than just a high-profile buy,” he says. “It was about enhancing consumer sentiment, getting folks involved with the brand and developing content and distributing that content.”

Favorite TV show: “I’m typically a Walking Dead, Homeland, House of Lies kind of guy,” Chin says. Also NFL: “I’m a huge New York Giants fan.”


Title: Client director, strategy, Initiative U.S.

Originally From: San Francisco

College: University of Oregon

Getting into the business: When Handley was in college, Oregon had one of the few advertising programs in the U.S. She took advertising classes and wanted to work on the creative side, but was asked to be the media planner in a campaign class. “I had no idea what media planning meant,” Handley recalls. She bought the book Media Planning by Jim Surmanek, and “I loved it. It is creative. Very rarely will you use the same answer to solve a problem.” Now, the book is probably considerably outdated, “but the fundaments and the basics are the same,” she says.

Recent interesting campaign: “USAA is trying to target the military community, and as a result it really requires a heightened degree of focus,” Handley says. The agency used a variety of data sources including syndicated research and custom research studies to identify where the pockets of opportunity are, and to ensure that all of the programming or networks used in the campaign have a really high composition to reach the military audience. Addressable TV turned out to be a very precise way to reach that audience. “It involved a lot more data inputs than traditional television buying but the right message reached the appropriate audience,” she says.

Favorite TV show: The Blacklist. “I travel a fair amount. Every time it’s available on a fl ight, I put the laptop away. I don’t know why I’m so intrigued by that show, but it’s interesting to me the twists and turns it takes.”


Title: Managing partner, planning MEC

Originally from: Hollywood, Fla.

College: University of Florida

Getting into the business: “One day I realized I had to be an adult and I picked up the paper to find a job—the good old newspaper—and I applied for a job as a traffic manager at a small advertising agency,” Karp recalls. From Trout Advertising in Fort Lauderdale she moved crosstown to Falgren Advertising and made a stop in Washington, D.C., before settling in New York. She shifted from buying to planning in D.C. Since working with Johnson & Johnson, she believes in the notion of being a communications architect. “It’s hugely important connecting all the dots, threading consumer insight through all the touch points,” she says.

Recent interesting account: Karp works on the AT&T account. “I’ve been on it for five years, and it feels like it changes every other day,” she says. They use real-time data and created real-time spots during the Olympics. “We were buying spots and we had to take footage from the actual Olympic Games and turn them around quickly and get them on the air,” she says. AT&T launched a Rollover Data plan using TV and digital, but after a similar one had been introduced by T-Mobile. Listening in on social media, AT&T found that people remembered that AT&T had provided rollover minutes. That told the agency the message they were putting out would resonate with consumers and help guide the rest of the campaign.

Favorite TV Show: Homeland. “I wasn’t as impressed with last season, but it’s keeping me in suspense. I want to see what they do next,” Karp says.


Title: Group planning director, Mindshare

Originally from: Howell, N.J.

College: Syracuse University

Getting into the business: Levine took an advertising class at Syracuse. “I just fell in love with it. So really from my junior year on, I just knew media was what I should be doing,” she says. Her professor encouraged students to reach out to agencies, and she did a lot of networking and got a number of interviews. Her first job was as an assistant media planner at Deutsch, working on the Tylenol account.

Recent interesting campaign: The agency put several Unilever personal care products in MTV’s 2014 Video Music Awards, the first multiproduct effort aimed at women by the marketer. The brands included Degree Woman deodorant, Caress body wash and Tresemme hair care. “The goal was to have an umbrella campaign while making sure each brand stood out at the VMAs,” Levine says. “We used data to inform a lot of the decisions we made and the executions that we did. From the beginning we used research to find out what millennials wanted out of an awards show, and it came back that they said, ‘We want less commercials and more red carpet,’ which makes perfect sense.” The agency ended up doing three live commercials, one for each brand. For Degree, the spot was about dance and performance. There were also three “war rooms” to react to what was happening in social conversations. “We were able to utilize really great insights in order to deliver innovative and breakthrough work for each of the brands,” she says.

Favorite TV Show: “I’m a Bravo junkie. I watch Real Housewives, I watch Top Chef, I watch Vanderpump Rules.”


Title: Managing partner, head of direct response, MediCom

Originally from: Lindenhurst, N.Y.

College: State University of N.Y. at Albany

Getting into the business: “Clearly I made the wrong turn somewhere,” jokes Lim. He studied psychology and English in college, “which prepared me for no actual career.” Advertising was theoretically interesting, and he interviewed at DMB&B. “I got a job there and started learning media,” he says. “They had a lot of big brands and it was a full-service agency, so you got the full breadth of what the offering was, vs. now where [agencies] are media-centric, or creative-centric or PR-centric in terms of the disciplines,” he says.

Recent interesting campaign: Client ADT Security recently launched a new campaign starring actor Ving Rhames. The industry is fascinating to Lim because the technology and market have evolved beyond security into home automation. Lim says the agency incorporated different data elements into planning the TV campaign. “We do a lot of analytics around the impact of television, whether it be digital or social. One TV impression would prompt multiple forms of response,” he says. “Validating that and contextualizing that is at the heart of the work that we’ve done, and we’ve done it on a granular basis.” Based on the analysis, the agency can substantiate the revenue implication and ROI of the campaign. They can also derive insights, such as what kinds of consumers are viewing the campaign and when. “That helps us contextualize not just the investment strategy, but also the upfront strategy in terms of messaging,” Lim says.

Favorite TV show: Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. “My wife was heartbroken that Jon Snow just died,” he says.


Title: Senior VP, client business partner, UM

Originally from: Westchester County, N.Y.

College: University of Michigan

How I got into the business: Murtagh studied English and meteorology in college and did on-air weather reports and field produced news on News 12. But she was living at home and needed to get out. A friend’s sister was working at Mindshare. She’d never heard of Mindshare, but a mentor who hired her at Mindshare later brought her to Mc-Cann, where she’s been for 13 years.

Recent interesting campaign: “We’ve been able to push the needle and be pretty innovative,” says Murtagh, who works on the BMW account. BMW is a U.S. Olympic Committee sponsor and it built the team’s four-man bobsled, which gave the automaker a share in how the team performed. “We used our partnership with NBC to tell the story,” she says. A documentary about the process and technology was created and ran on the network. Clips from the documentary ran elsewhere. “When the Olympics came, people knew the story,” she says. BMW also bought a programmatic ad running on ESPN’s SportsCenter. “It’s our team innovating and pushing the envelope and using new products.”

Favorite TV show: The Royals. “That’s my new favorite,” she says. “It’s not necessarily the most cerebral show. Sometimes mindless shows work well.”


Title: Senior VP, Starcom MediaVest Group

Originally from: Chicago

College: University of Minnesota

Getting into the business: “I always loved television and was captured by the creativity of advertising,” Murtos says. In high school, he wrote papers on TV and advertising. At college, he studied journalism and advertising and was involved with the ad club. “It was my dream to move to Chicago and work for an agency,” he says. But getting a job was tough; the economy was weak. Murtos started at a five-person shop in Milwaukee, doing a little bit of everything from creative work to invoicing clients. He heard about an opening at J. Walter Thompson in Chicago. It was in the media department, but he took it. “I was interested in it from the numbers perspective,” he recalls. “I fell into it but then grew to really appreciate it and found a niche there.”

Recent interesting campaign: The agency did a campaign for Excedrin using addressable TV. In addition to using data sources like Experian or Acxiom to identify a target, Starcom leveraged pharmaceutical purchase data from Crossix. They were able to measure the campaign using shopping data from Shopcom and Dunnhumby linked to viewing to see which households saw the ad and bought the product, vs. homes that were in the target but didn’t get the message. “We saw some significant lift,” Murtos says, including a 40% gain in sales. “Some really strong results using that powerful combination of data.”

Favorite TV Show: House of Cards, but Modern Family is the one show he can watch with his family. “We cherish our time to be able to watch that show together for 30 minutes a week,” he says.


Title: Managing director, OMD

Originally from: New York City

College: Hofstra University

Getting into the business: “Funny enough, it kind of happened by accident,” Pardo recalls. He expected to be a lawyer, but after spending a summer with his aunt, who was a judge, he decided he hated it. Looking for another job, he had a friend who had done an interview at Mindshare and really loved it there. The friend gave Pardo an email address to try. He sent several emails to Shari Cohen—now codirector of national broadcast at the agency—before she connected him with human resources. “And that’s how I got into our wonderful world,” he says. He’s worked on accounts including Unilever, Sprint and Bacardi. “It’s been an interesting ride, and an interesting window on a lot of different industries. That’s what I love most about our business and why I’m still engaged in it.”

Recent interesting campaign: Pardo works on the Time Warner Cable account. “Time Warner Cable buys a lot of TV, mostly local buys. What makes Time Warner Cable interesting is that they have their own set-top box data about what their customers watch on TV. We’ve been trying to utilize their set-top box data to help us plan TV a little bit better—both for their internal cross-channel activity, but also from a customer acquisition perspective,” he says. “That’s another view on how we work with clients. Because they own their own data, we get another data point to corroborate, as opposed to a third party.”

Favorite TV Show: “I’m a Netflix guy. I just finished watching Bloodline, which was pretty good. I’m also excited about Extant, which is coming back on network TV.”


Title: Senior VP, managing director, Carat USA

Originally from: Ogdensburg, N.Y.

College: Syracuse University

Getting into the business: In college, Seymour studied television. He told his parents he was a dual major in marketing and television, radio and fi lm. “I quietly dropped the marketing major, unbeknownst to them,” he says. Before senior year, there was a career fair and Grey Advertising was hiring media interns. “I spent the summer at Grey doing media. I had no idea what it was, but I kind of fell in love with it. I loved the nerdy math behind it, doing research runs and looking at indices and how it tied back to consumers. It kind of felt right,” he says. Nevertheless, after returning to school, he interned at a bank and at a mental health facility in London just to be sure media was the right career. Seymour had two job offers, and Modem Media was paying for health care. “That’s how I got into digital,” he says.

Recent interesting campaign: Seymour worked on the recent launch of Sony’s PlayStation 4. It continues to be a successful competitor against Microsoft’s Xbox One. “At the agency, programmatic is a huge thing,” he says. “We do programmatic television, and those things are a little bit more challenging because you have to get the pipes laid right. So we’ve done some stuff in the space, but right now it’s all about getting that infrastructure. We haven’t come across anything that’s blown the doors off in terms of scale.”

Favorite TV show: “I watch a ton of TV. I just finished Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix. True Detective just came out on HBO. I can’t wait to see that. And I started watching Wayward Pines a bit,” he says.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.