May 17, 2020

The team of executives emphasize the power of partnership as they head into an unconventional upfront season.

ViacomCBS’ roster of advertising sales executives humanize the company’s new mantra: simply stronger.

“Our newly integrated team across ViacomCBS has come together even more quickly than I could have expected despite the pressure of extenuating circumstances,” wrote Jo Ann Ross, president and chief advertising revenue officer of domestic advertising sales at ViacomCBS, in a note to advertisers earlier this month. “This incredible progress gives me optimism for the days ahead.”

ViacomCBS became the first media company to announce a digital upfront in place of its annual Carnegie Hall presentation and agency dinners. The two-day event, beginning May 18, will be the first time the offerings of the newly merged organization are presented holistically to the advertising community. In a time where reach and scale are considered to be table stakes, the combined ViacomCBS has the largest share of total viewership among key demos and the most-watched broadcast network. With inventory spanning linear and digital, and leading advanced advertising and creative capabilities, it also offers what many on the sales team refer to as a “one-stop shop” for advertisers.

In the lead up to the virtual reveal, the ViacomCBS Newsroom spoke with the ad sales leadership team about the power of the combined portfolio, their go-to-market message, and how they predict the industry will move forward.

Jo Ann Ross, President and Chief Ad Revenue Officer, ViacomCBS Domestic Ad Sales

"We have already achieved what we hoped to accomplish in bringing our sales organizations together—one team with a unified mission to provide our partners with the most powerful, seamless advertising solutions in the industry."

Jo Ann Ross headshot


Current role: Ross took the helm of ViacomCBS’ ad sales department following the close of the ViacomCBS merger in December 2019.

ViacomCBS pedigree: Previously, she served as CBS’ President and Chief Advertising Revenue Officer and became the first woman to serve as sales chief of a broadcast network. She worked at various roles within the CBS sales department since starting as the VP of Olympic Sales in 1992.


John Halley, COO of Ad Revenue and EVP, Advanced Marketing Solutions

“Fundamentally, it’s our mission to help brands achieve their core business goals.”

Current role: Halley steers ViacomCBS’ development and go-to-market efforts in a number of critical areas, including connected and addressable video, advanced advertising, as well as emerging platforms and partnerships. He also oversees the company's pricing, inventory, commercial operations, finance and business development functions across the ViacomCBS ad sales linear and digital portfolio.

ViacomCBS pedigree: Prior to the merger, Halley served as EVP and COO of Ad Sales for Viacom Media Networks since 2013. He joined Viacom in 2007 as SVP of Ad Sales Finance.


David Lawenda, EVP of Sales, Digital Video and Interactive, ViacomCBS

"The breadth and depth of our audience is what makes us unique. We are the sixth largest internet company in the U.S. covering virtually every consumer passion point—Entertainment, News, Sports, Music, Tech, Games, and Kids and Family. Because of all of this amazing content, we're able to offer brands a young, lean-in, cord-cutting audience that complements linear."

David Lawenda headshot

Current role: Lawenda heads digital video and branded content across all platforms, as well as social influencer sales and ad sales at Pluto TV.

ViacomCBS pedigree: Lawenda oversaw CBS’ digital advertising sales business and multiplatform sales strategy, including all sales and marketing efforts of CBS Interactive, since 2017. Earlier in his career, he also worked his way up the Viacom sales organization over 14 years, helping to launch Spike TV in 2003.

Previous experience: Prior to CBS, he served as Head of U.S. and Global Marketing Solutions at Facebook, where he launched the monetization strategy of Instagram, and as President of Ad Sales and Marketing at Univision.


Dario Spina, EVP and CMO, Viacom Velocity

“What we are bringing to the table in this upfront season is the ability for partners to connect with custom marketing campaigns on so many more levels. We have three, distinct marketing teams dedicated to providing creative solutions with CBS Eyemax, CBS Interactive’s Integrated marketing team, and Viacom Velocity, which give us the ability to integrate across some of the most valuable IP, in addition to creating bespoke messaging across linear, connected video, social and experiences.”

Dario Spina headshot

Current role: Spina oversees Viacom Velocity, ViacomCBS’ in-house branded content studio which links advertisers to various creative and media functions within the organization. He also leads Velocity Culture and Creative Insights, a specialized team of cultural and strategy experts designed to drive engagement and value for partners in unique ways.

ViacomCBS pedigree: He began his career at Viacom in 1999, as director of promotions at MTV Interactive and has held various roles throughout the company since, including as EVP of Integrated Marketing for the Music & Entertainment group and SVP of Marketing at Spike TV.

Louis Carr, President, Media Sales, BET

"We have the most diverse portfolio of assets of any major media company out there, with programming that caters to broad audiences and specific demos and includes broadcast, cable, and digital. That makes this upfront different for us. It puts us in a better position."

Louis Carr headshot

Current role: Carr leads linear and digital advertising sales and integrated marketing for BET.

ViacomCBS pedigree: He’s served as the president of media sales for BET Networks for 34 years, remaining with the company through the brand’s acquisition by Viacom in 2000. During his tenure, he’s generated more than $9 billion dollars in revenue during his tenure and become one of the most influential and prominent African-Americans in the media and advertising industries.


John Bogusz, EVP of Sports Sales and Marketing, CBS Network Sales

"Clients cannot wait for live sports to be back. Our sports portfolio is just first class, from the PGA Tour, to the SEC Conference, to the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, to the NFL."

John Bogusz headshot

Current role: Bogusz oversees sales for sports across the CBS Television Network and CBS Sports. February 2021 will mark his seventh Super Bowl as head of sports sales at the network.

ViacomCBS pedigree: John Bogusz joined CBS as the SVP of daytime sales in 1998 and made the move from daytime to sports in 2002.

Previous experience: He was previously head of ad sales and marketing at Univision and spent 13 years in sales at Capital Cities/ABC.

Karen Phillips EVP, Convergent Sales, ViacomCBS

"As a Convergent Ad Sales team, our mission has always been to deliver impactful multi-platform solutions to our clients, maximizing our revenue potential across all screens. What we’re most excited about is the incredible opportunity we have to extend our breadth of capabilities across the entire ViacomCBS ecosystem."

karen Phillips headshot

Current role: Phillips is responsible for multi-platform sales across ViacomCBS’ cable brands, including MTV, VH1, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, CMT, TV Land, Pop TV, and Smithsonian Channel.

ViacomCBS pedigree: Before the merger, Phillips served as EVP of Ad Solutions for Viacom. She oversaw sales across all Viacom platforms and properties, led client needs assessments, and aligned sales strategies with meeting those needs in unique, creative ways that set Viacom Media Networks apart from the competition. Phillips began her career at Viacom in 1996, and has held multiple roles during her tenure with the company including VP of MTV Linear Sales.


Chris Simon, EVP, Network Sales, CBS Television Network

"We believe in partnership. We always have. These are unbelievably challenging times, and we're here for every agency and every client. However our clients want to come to market, we will work with them, and it will be on agency-by-agency, client-by-client, case-by-case basis."

Chris Simon headshot

Current role: Simon leads client partnerships and linear sales for all dayparts, and oversees the CBS sales offices in Chicago, Detroit and L.A.

ViacomCBS pedigree: Simon has served as EVP of Network Sales at CBS for 18 years. This July marks his 26th anniversary at the company.

Previous experience: Prior to joining CBS, he was an account executive at USA Networks.


Russ Behrman, EVP, Sales Strategy, Planning and Administration

"The collaboration that I've seen between the CBS and Viacom legacy sales teams is just remarkable. We have come together as if we've always been together. Everybody's invested in the same goal. I don't think this happens all that easily, and I don't think it happens this successfully everywhere."

Russ Behrman headshot

Current role: Behrman handles sales strategy including pricing, planning, yield management and broadcast sales operations for ViacomCBS. He also works closely with finance.

ViacomCBS pedigree: He was with CBS for more than 35 years, running the Television Network Sales Planning Group for more than two decades and serving as director in charge of the Sales Analysis Finance group for seven years. He was elevated to his current role in 2018.

Previous experience: He began his career as an on-air local sports anchor for WTVX-TV, which was then the CBS affiliate in Fort Pierce, Fla.


Linda René, EVP, Primetime Sales, Entertainment Innovation and Partnerships, CBS Network Sales

"Clients have been leaning into data and advanced advertising and we are there in a big way. They are also looking for flexibility. That can have different meanings depending on the client. We are listening and finding solutions."

Linda René headshot

Current role: René leads primetime sales, including client supplied programming. She also oversees the Eye Max team, a group dedicated to branded entertainment partnerships and cross-platform innovation that she’s led since its 2018 inception.

ViacomCBS pedigree: She started her CBS career in 1983 as manager of sales planning at the CBS offices in Los Angeles. She worked her way through the network sales department, later transferring to New York in 1984 and spending years as an account executive in various dayparts. She then held several management positions, mostly in primetime before becoming responsible for primetime sales in 2013.

Previous experience: René was with Doyle Dane Bernbach West for four years, starting as a planning assistant and working her way up to Director of Media Planning on the Universal Pictures account and account executive on the CBS account.


Mike Dean, SVP, Advanced Advertising, ViacomCBS

“When using advanced advertising to target niche, strategic audiences, you have to start with a massive audience. As we say, ‘you have to be big to go small,’ and no media company reaches more multi-platform TV viewers than ViacomCBS.”

Mike Dean headshot

ViacomCBS pedigree: Dean joined CBS in 2018 as SVP of Advanced Advertising and Automation, in which he was responsible for the products and sales of advanced TV including optimized linear, addressable, and programmatic TV. 

Previous experience: Prior to CBS, he was VP of Programmatic & Advanced Advertising at Disney/ABC Television Group, and was responsible for advanced TV and digital programmatic revenue. Earlier in his career, he held positions at Videology and Microsoft, where he co-invented a patented process to personalize web search results based on user data.

Steve Ellis, EVP of Ad Strategy and Business Development, ViacomCBS

“Clients realize that to reach everyone, they need to be everywhere and in a coordinated and combined way. We can do that —at real scale."

Steve Ellis headshot


Current role: Ellis responsible for working with the Ad Solutions team to transform the advertising business at the television and media conglomerate.

ViacomCBS pedigree: Ellis founded and served as the CEO of WHOSAY, and came to Viacom in January 2018 following Viacom’s acquisition of the influence marketer. 

Previous experience: Prior to WHOSAY, Ellis was the CEO of Pump Audio, an independent music licensing service that was acquired by Getty Images in 2007. The business was born out of his time as a member of the band the Simpletons.

David Morris, EVP, Chief Client Officer, ViacomCBS

“I have the good fortune to see our team in action every day with our most important accounts. The level of trust that top marketers have with the ViacomCBS sales team is truly remarkable. As the ad world has been turned upside down, the value of a personal relationship has never been higher and that is our competitive advantage.”


Current role: As chief client officer, Morris focuses on ViacomCBS’ entire portfolio of assets. He’s responsible for delivering a unified sales strategy for the company’s top 50 key clients.

ViacomCBS pedigree: Prior to the merger, Morris was EVP for Advanced Advertising and Client Partnerships at CBS, leading CBS’ efforts in the evolving video space as it related to ad innovation and audience planning. Morris joined CNET Networks as SVP of Network Sales in 2007, just before CBS bought it. He then went on to work his way up the ranks at CBS, serving as SVP and Chief Client Officer and later EVP and Chief Revenue Officer at CBS Interactive.

Previous experience: Morris worked at Time Inc. for more than 20 years, including serving as President and Publisher of Entertainment Weekly and Publisher of Sports Illustrated.

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