Linda Rene, CBS Veteran Who Paired Big Brands With ‘Survivor, to Exit newsbhunt


Linda Rene once proved instrumental in weaving blue-chip advertisers like Anheuser-Busch and General Motors into a fledgling CBS reality competition called “Survivor.” Two decades later, she is planning to get off the island.

Rene, an advertising-sales veteran who has worked at CBS for more than four decades, helped expand an industry practice known as product placement and was pivotal in crafting new deals that not only had advertisers providing vehicles and beverages as set dressing, but weaving their products into a show in ways that made them as prominent as some of the cast members. Marketers were able to cut deals with CBS that guaranteed them a notable presence in programs such as “The Amazing Race” or “NCIS,” while agreeing to buy up traditional commercials in the series that bolstered their in-show appearances.

Now, after working at CBS and its successor company, Paramount Global, as the head of primetime ad sales and brand partnerships for the broadcast network, Rene plans to exit at the end of 2023, the company confirmed Friday.

“Linda has paved new ground in the way we do business and has taught, motivated, and inspired those who worked with her,” said Jo Ann Ross and John Halley, chairman and president of Paramount’s ad sales operation, in a memo to staffers. They added: “Linda’s deep sense of integrity has made her an invaluable resource to the many advertising and CBS production clients she called on in a business that demands mutual respect. She was the architect of some of the earliest, deepest, and most longstanding multi-year client partnerships we have today.”

Rene joined CBS on January 4 of 1983 as a manager of sales planning on the west coast after working for a few years at the Omnicom ad agency DDB. While there, she started to work with movie studios like Universal and 20th Century Fox — clients whose big products were movies and programs. One of her clients took a job with CBS, and urged Rene to join. By 1986, she had moved to the east coast and was working as an account manager for the network’s ad-sales team — a role that was traditionally dominated by men.

Under Rene, CBS continued to create landmark ways to lace advertisers into programs. The network put a full bar sponsored by Anheuser-Busch, then Heineken, on to the set of the “The Late Late Show With James Corden.” In 2013, CBS found a way to tuck Microsoft devices and Toyota vehicles into a town cut off from the rest of the word in the sci-fi mini-series “Under The Dome.” General Motors’ Chevrolet became the exclusive auto sponsor of CBS’ “Hawaii Five-0” and had the heroes of the series driving its cars. Google and Philips Electronics have been able to help series like “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” and “60 Minutes” add more time for content while getting plaudits for helping to make the feat possible.

To be sure, CBS could get a little aggressive with the practice. In one oft-cited example, the network allowed Subway to take up a full scene in “Five-0” that included mentions of its sandwiches in the dialogue. Why watch ads in a commercial break when you can put one into the show itself? On the whole, however, CBS has striven for organic appearances that don’t distract from the entertainment.

Rene’s exit is one of the first of a close-knit team of long-serving ad-sales executives who have worked for decades at CBS. When the company was merged with Viacom — a corporate sibling also controlled by the Redstone family’s National Amusements Inc. — the team remained, though some were assigned new responsibilities in keeping with an industry that is scrambling to keep ad dollars flowing even as TV audiences move to streaming and digital viewing.

The executive’s departure marks the end of an era for the many of us fortunate enough to have worked alongside this trailblazer for our company and our industry,” Ross and Halley said in their memo.


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