Steve Mandala may not be a household name, but inside the world of Hispanic media, he’s the guy everybody knows. For over three decades, Mandala has been a powerbroker in Spanish-language television.
The University of Southern California graduate began his career at KVEA, Telemundo’s flagship station in Los Angeles, where he rose to become General Sales Manager. Univision then hired him as its Vice President of West Coast Sales. Five years later, Telemundo came knocking and Mandala accepted a position as the VP of Television Station and Affiliate Sales. Parent company NBCUniversal promoted him to Executive VP for Cable Entertainment Sales, where he led a team of over 200 sales professionals working across seven networks. For the past eight years, Mandala has been back at Univision, where he now serves as President of Advertising Sales and Marketing.
In this interview, Mandala shares his insights into the U.S. Hispanic market, the incoming owners of Univision and the worst and best days of career.
What are some of the changes you’ve noticed with Spanish-language TV in the last 30 years?
There’s three times the number of clients active in Spanish-language media today than there were when I started in the business. The view by marketers of the importance of this consumer segment has never been more dominant than it is today.
One of my favorite stories is from many years ago. I can mention the client because it no longer exists. When there was a Ralston Purina, I remember going to St. Louis and meeting with the leads of their marketing and media teams and trying to pitch Spanish language. Ralston had these great brands, so we want to get them activated.
MORE FOR YOU
I remember sitting in a conference room in what was called Checkerboard Square. The checkerboard was the old logo for Ralston Purina. We’re sitting in a conference room on the seventh floor. One of the guys in the meeting — you could tell he was not favorable to this message at all — walked over, dramatically opened the drapes to the conference room, pointed down at Checkerboard Square. “Tell me how many Hispanics you see down there.” I thought to myself, “This meeting is over. There’s no reason to utter another word.” This guy had absolutely no interest in listening.
You would never have that happen today. We have a different type of resistance. It’s certainly is more polite today, in many ways. But I think you experience some of the same resistance, but you don’t run into that type of expression.
Where do you see the biggest area of opportunity when it comes to engaging with Hispanics today?
From a marketer’s perspective? It’s two things today. We talk about this a lot with our partners at both agencies and clients. First and foremost, targeting the U.S. Hispanic consumer is still a business opportunity. It makes good sense, no pun intended. The U.S. Hispanic population is driving total population growth and driving economic growth in our country.
The most recent data showed that Hispanics were driving the majority of the performance in all 10 of the top 10 biggest product categories. So, this is an economic opportunity whereby marketers can speak to more consumers. They can expand their consumer base, if they’re not already speaking to this consumer directly. The economic opportunity is even more important today than it was 30 years ago.
But the thing that is more acknowledged today is the second reason why marketers should be doing this. It makes good business sense to show a sense of alignment with culture and community. There is such a movement today in driving diversity, inclusion and social equity. Marketers have a responsibility to make sure that all consumers have the same access to information about their products and services.
Right before the pandemic hit, former Viacom VIAB CFO Wade Davis and his investment company ForgeLight announced plans to join forces with investment firm Searchlight Capital Partners and take a majority stake in Univision. What can you share about what’s coming?
I don’t want to speak for our new owners at all, but I will say that we’re really, as a senior leadership team, excited about this. We’re going to have a group of owners — and particularly with Wade as our CEO — who have terrific domain expertise in the media business in general, and are really smart, accomplished businesspeople. They’re going to bring a new enthusiasm to our company about growth. That growth is going to come from a renewed energy, the introduction of new products. I actually think our best days are still ahead.
This change in ownership is a pivot point that’s going to be terrific. We’ve been in the planning phases for many months now, so that as the deal closes, we’re not starting to make plans at that point. We’ll have thought through a lot of things that we will roll out quickly to the market. I’m really excited about it and incredibly thankful to our current board of directors and our current owners before the sale is closed. They’ve been terrific to our company, really important stewards for the past 11 years.
But I think that this new energy is going to accelerate the growth for not only our company, but our industry.
Any indication as to when the deal might close?
We’re waiting on regulatory approval and there’s a number of hurdles that we have to overcome. Obviously, we’ve been working on them for an extended amount of time. I think we’re coming down through the funnel closer to the end, sooner rather than later. But we don’t control the process, since it is a regulatory review.
What have been the worst and best days of your career?
I’m one of those people that believes in the yin and the yang. I think those two things happened on the same day, the day that I got let go from NBCUniversal. I loved what I was doing, loved working for that company, and met unbelievably smart, skilled people who I just respected and admired. So that was a really hard day to have that loss. But it was also the greatest day, because it led to what was next. I have loved being back at Univision.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Listen to the full episode of The Revolución Podcast featuring Steve Mandala with co-hosts Ana Crandell, Diego Lastra and Court Stroud on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, iHeartMedia or by clicking here.
Source: Forbes – Business