Fox's Nesvig Reflects On Ad Landscape

Media executives often crack that their business is for C students. Jon Nesvig suggests it's time for a revision. Keep the tongue-in-cheek, how about: "Media used to be for C students, now all you need is a C-."

But seriously, Nesvig says: "Now, that saying annoys the sh*t out of me."

With complex algorithms for calculating ROI and brainstorming about multiplatforms and multiple touch points, he says research has partly trumped relationships. He tells Sports Business Journal in a lengthy interview that hugs and handshakes are still key, but things are "more data-driven." It's a "demanding business that requires an awful lot of knowledge and insight."

So, you need be a gentleman and a scholar.

Nesvig, the top sales executive at Fox, is set to retire after arduous duty attending a few more holiday parties. No doubt the gatherings will be more tame than yesteryear. During what he described as "Mad Men" days, Nesvig says: "We usually had a few pops for lunch and a few pops after work."

As for "Mad Men" ad days, he says: "The only thing I can see that they missed is the noise. We had Monro-Matics, which were mechanical calculators with wheels. The wheels would actually roll when you did your numbers. Ker-chunk, ker-chunk, ker-chunk. And phones were ringing constantly because the only form of communication was basically by telephone."

Nesvig told SBJ he got his first job in media at an agency after proving he could do some easy math -- and listening to his would-be boss marvel about Columbia basketball. The interview was on a Thursday, and he started Monday.

Fox has sold out the Super Bowl already this year, the last of many where Nesvig has overseen the sales. But how much fun is an early sellout?

"It's probably more fun in a down market, but it gets scary," he says in the interview. "That last unit is probably sold on the bus on Friday afternoon when you're trying to play golf."

What would happen if a Super Bowl went into overtime, which almost happened during one of the Fox games? Nesvig says there wasn't much of a "back-up" plan. But as the prospect loomed, there was some on-site wheeling and dealing.

"We had the A-B guys with us. We had the Pepsi guys with us. We were asking, 'Who's got something? Here we go. We want cash.'"

Getting big money for a spot reaching 100 million people? Well, maybe that does take only a C student.

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