In an unexpected Madison Avenue shake-up, NBCUniversal has poached Alison Levin, a senior advertising executive at Roku, who will take on one of the media giant’s most senior sales roles.
Levin, who was named a president of NBCU’s ad-sales unit, will report to Mark Marshall, global chairman. Levin, who will join NBC in December, will take oversight of ad-sales work across national and local media as well as sports and Olympics efforts. She will also be charged with shaping strategy as NBCU — and its rivals — focus increasingly on helping advertisers connect with specific types of consumers across a broad portfolio of media properties. Levin was just last month promoted to head of global revenue at Roku in a reorganization.
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NBCUniversal also elevated Karen Kovacs to president of client partnerships, also reporting to Marshall. She will be tasked with working more closely with chief marketing officers at various advertisers.
“Alison is extremely well-respected across the advertising ecosystem for her focus on partnership as well as her innovative leadership in the connected TV and digital ad space,” Marshall said in a statement. “As a pioneer of the shift to data-driven selling, Alison brought instrumental value to the marketplace at large, and I have no doubt her acumen and experience will bring incredible value to our team. Karen Kovacs has been essential in the collaboration and growth of our enterprise partnerships with clients, and I could not be more thrilled to have these two talented executives join our broader leadership team in advancing our division forward.”
The new roles for Levin and Kovacs show Marshall forming a new team to oversee NBCU’s advertising outreach after the departure of several key executives over the past several months. Linda Yaccarino, the ad-sales division’s previous chairman, left NBCU abruptly when it was discovered — just days before the company’s “upfront” presentation to advertisers — that she had been in talks to join Twitter, the social-media outlet now known as X, as its CEO. Krishan Bhatia, a key lieutenant, recently exited NBCU. Laura Molen, another Yaccarino deputy, left NBCU in late 2022.
Levin’s hire also suggests that TV companies may have to look outside their traditional circles to find executives well-versed in many of the media sector’s latest nuances, particularly as ad-supported streaming becomes more critical to media economics. Working in streaming means understanding how to use data to locate consumer niches; how to allocate programmatic sales; and scrutinizing such elements as whether a commercial surfaces to a particular subscriber with a too-great degree of frequency.
The executive shuffle marks something of a rarity in the traditional media business, which has seen an exodus in recent years of top executives moving to digital venues. Levin is reversing the typical steps, leaving a senior role at a prominent streaming provider in favor of marshalling new support for some of media’s most recognizable properties, including “Sunday Night Football” and “Saturday Night Live.”
Levin had been a steady influence at Roku, and was the company’s first ad-sales hire. She was instrumental in helping the company establish itself with Madison Avenue and wooing marketers such as McDonald’s to a venue that was initially viewed as experimental. Before joining Roku, Levin worked for YuMe, IAC and BusinessWeek. Kovacs had been an executive vice president of client partnerships for NBCUniversal, and has been involved in a a variety of recent efforts for advertises and sponsors.
Roku’s ad-sales comes under the aegis of executive Charlie Collier, who joined the company approximately a year earlier. He is expected to seek a new senior executive to fill Levin’s remit, a move that would mark his first senior hire.
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