Updated 8:00 PM EST to reflect a statement from WarnerMedia CRO Gerhard Zeiler
WarnerMedia’s president of ad sales, Donna Speciale, is leaving the company as part of a broader ad sales reorg. The Information first reported the development.
Speciale, who has been president of Turner’s ad sales business for seven years, took on the role at WarnerMedia after it was acquired by AT&T last year.
It is not clear what Speciale’s next role will be.
In a memo noting the reorg, WarnerMedia CRO Gerhard Zeiler said he will lead ad sales as its interim president, working with a three-person exec team: Amit Chaturvedi, Katrina Cukaj and Joe Hogan. WarnerMedia appointed Zeiler in March to oversee its ad group.
"In all of the conversations I had, formal or informal, it was obvious that everyone understands how much the industry is transforming and that we need to change to enable us to stay at the top and lead the industry," Zeiler said in the memo. "After a thoughtful review, I concluded that we also need to change the leadership structure to support the transition of our ad sales business."
Besides Speciale, two other WarnerMedia ad execs are also leaving the company: Dan Riess, EVP of content and data solutions unit Turner Ignite, and Frank Sgrizzi, EVP of portfolio sales and client partnerships.
Zeiler's entire memo is reprinted below.
Speciale’s anticipated departure follows other high profile exits, including former HBO CEO Richard Plepler and former Turner President David Levy, both of whom said in February that they would leave.
Speciale has been spearheading WarnerMedia’s sales efforts across both linear and digital TV, appearing earlier this year at both WarnerMedia’s and Xandr’s upfronts. She was at the forefront of driving efforts to integrate AT&T’s data with WarnerMedia’s content to drive better targeting and measurement on linear TV.
“The goal is to do a lot more audience deals using [AT&T’s] data,” she said in an October 2018 interview with AdExchanger. “The holy grail will be to provide business outcomes and attribution models. In the latter part of 2019, that could be very, very real.”
That vision became a reality in early 2019, when Turner began activating set-top box data from AT&T’s 40 million households to tie linear TV ad exposures to business outcomes. It’s unclear how Speciale’s departure will impact the rollout of WarnerMedia ad solutions that use AT&T data.
“Digital has been doing a great job in providing business outcomes,” Speciale told AdExchanger in January. “That has been a big challenge in the linear space. We have not been able to crack that code.”
Speciale has a long history of getting fiercely competitive stakeholders to work together to evolve the TV ecosystem. Before her time at AT&T, she led Turner’s charge into the creation of OpenAP, a consortium that included Fox and Viacom to standardize audience definitions across each network’s portfolio. However, WarnerMedia pulled out of the consortium in April.
Zeiler's memo is reprinted in full below:
The last few months have provided a real opportunity for me to dive deeply into our businesses.
In all of the conversations I had, formal or informal, it was obvious that everyone understands how much the industry is transforming and that we need to change to enable us to stay at the top and lead the industry.
After a thoughtful review, I concluded that we also need to change the leadership structure to support the transition of our ad sales business. For the time being, I will lead ad sales as interim president, working with a three-person operational team with significant experience across portions of ad sales:
- Amit Chaturvedi leads Revenue Operations, Ad Innovation, Ad Product strategy, Digital Sales Planning and Digital Yield Management
- Katrina Cukaj leads linear Strategic Planning, Research, Network Partnerships and Marketplace Image & Experience
- Joe Hogan leads Sales including Agency, Client, Digital, Direct Response and Content Partnerships
Donna Speciale, Dan Riess and Frank Sgrizzi will be leaving the company.
First and foremost, I want to thank Donna for her leadership and dedication. Over the course of the recent seven plus years, she has invested in building out our award-winning advanced ad and storytelling capabilities for our advertising partners, transforming the way we do business today.
Also, I want to thank Dan and Frank for their commitment and important contributions in making Turner an industry leader during their long tenures at the company, 21 and 28 years respectively.
This is a significant reorganization and I understand that it is difficult to see our colleagues moving on. I thank all of them wholeheartedly for their contributions and wish them all the best for the future.
Let me take the opportunity to thank all of you once more for your patience, dedication, and focus on our everyday business during times of uncertainty.
I know that change can be challenging. But remember: Change is also an opportunity, and our ambition is big. We are strengthening our core business, driving new revenue streams, and reshaping the corporate structure – all at the same time.
None of this would be possible without your support, passion and hard work. Thank you for that!