According to WPTV-TV’s National Sales Manager Dave Griscavage, "Good management is a balance between managing your inventory and managing your people.” Keeping up with the inventory of commercial spots is an overwhelming and challenging job. Dave’s prime responsibility is managing the political ads and the political season has reached the shore of the station. For primaries, the political window opens forty-five days before voting day. For general elections, the window opens sixty days before the general election. When political windows open up the inventory drastically changes. The station must sell their spots to political advertisers at the lowest rate. For the most part, the number of ads available in any given day doesn't change so non-political advertisers get bumped and their rates go up. It is simple economics of supply and demand. The demand stays the same but the supply shrinks creating a lot of stress on both account executives and managers, especially Dave.
Because of FCC regulations the station must be very careful to ensure the political candidate gets the lowest unit rate. It is Dave’s responsibility to make sure the station complies. If an ad is sold and the candidate wasn’t given the lowest possible rate, then the candidate must receive a rebate or the money can be applied to another spot. If a time period is sold out, then a higher rate can be applied. It is a tricky game of watching numbers and sifting through inventory. It’s a lot like day trading. It looks daunting but Dave’s been doing this for so long it is second nature to him.
Dave can easily explain the differences between charging rates for candidate’s campaign ads and issue ads. Issue ads are not just about legalizing marijuana, issue ads are when a PAC produces an ad for a candidate and buys air time. You can tell an issue ad two ways. 1) The ad must end with a identifier at the end of the video. The identifier must be 1/120th the size of the screen and 2) has to be on the screen for 4 seconds. Many times you will see, “Paid for by the FRIENDS OF THE POLITICIAN” and that is the label that tells you the money came from a PAC. Dave can charge the PACs any rate he wishes but he sticks with double the lowest unit rate.
The whole process of political advertising is mind boggling when you start doing the math. As others have said in the sales department, “TV won’t die as long as there are political ads.” Political supporters aren’t the only buyer group paying “issue rates”. Movies are given the “issue rate” treatment. The movie trailers are usually a last minute buy and may have to be cancelled. The ad has to play inside a show and not on the fringes. For instance, let’s say Meryl Streep is on the Tonight Show, the movie distributor will buy a spot during that show. Dave will charge the movie agency what he wants and it is not negotiable.
When a golf tournament goes long or a weather event creates breaking news, the commercial spots are knocked off the air and the sales department must make sure they “make good” on the commercial orders. Dave is responsible for tracking down all the ads that didn’t air and find a place for them. It is a tedious task but a mandatory process and there can’t be mistakes. It takes a seasoned veteran to get it done right.
“It’s a big puzzle,” and every day Dave is constantly putting the pieces together.
Dave's career path is similar to others in the sales department here at WPTV. He didn't start in sales and at one point he was a long way from crunching numbers. At Michigan State University, he rose to the top of the university's catering department and he almost made a career out of it but he hated it. However, he's pretty good at cutting cakes. When there is a birthday party in the department, Dave cuts the cake. I got to see him in action. He's pretty good. He says that his experience in the catering business trained him how to cut a wedding cake, "When you have to feed three hundred guests and you only have one wedding cake, you have to know what you are doing."
Dave has a long path of relationships in the business, from Lansing, Michigan to Tampa, Florida, to Washington, DC and now West Palm Beach. He's content here at WPTV but he keeps close ties with the people he met along the way. Many of his former co-workers and friends are now in management roles in stations and agencies he deals with. Dave admits networking has been the secret to his success.
It’s been a great two weeks. I’ve met some fantastic people like Dave, John and Justin. They treated me like a colleague and we had a few laughs. They taught me a lot and I hope I can retain it. I’m sure if I get stuck I can send them an email.
Cathy Goltz was a fantastic host. This morning she welcomed me with bagels. I think I’ve gained ten pounds on this trip. I was taken out to lunch ever day to some fantastic restaurants in West Palm Beach. It’s hot down here. It is the same temperature as Georgia, but it is like God turned the knob and put the sun on SPOT. I didn’t walk much because it was too hot and I was too busy soaking up all the knowledge I could. Unfortunately, I will need to go on a diet before the semester starts.
Cathy will be visiting Georgia Southern University this fall to speak with my Media Management and Sales class. She will also participate in our annual Communication Arts, Inc. networking expo. Her knowledge and enthusiasm will be welcomed at our event.
I leave with words of wisdom from my guests that I will share with future sales managers. “Prove yourself,” Dave says is the first thing any student or any rookie sales person needs to do. You can’t just expect to make a lot of money. You need to prove it first. There is no substitute for experience. “Trust”, is what your clients want. They want to trust you. They are handing over their life’s work to you. Put yourself in their shoes. They want you to help make their business stronger, better and they don’t want it to be harmed. Don’t tell the business what they should do, they know what they want. Help them.
In the end, I have a new view of sales and I see more opportunities for students. I didn’t choose the path toward sales but in a different light I may have found the way. In the past, I may have been too prejudicial and that is my regret. If I learned anything this week, it’s that professors need to show the way and not block the path.