WINNER: BARBARA HEDGES SVP, CONSUMER MARKETING, CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS

Barb Hedges knows effective marketing is not just about a catchphrase or clever mailer. Step by step, she has revolutionized Charter’s model by centralizing its marketing tactics and basing them on analytical, repeatable data. It’s just her way of applying her favorite quote from Elbert Hubbard: "Art is the beautiful way of doing things. Science is the effective way of doing things." Hedges shared her art and science of marketing with us.

CableFAX: The Magazine: Why is having centralized, data-driven analytical marketing so critical to marketing for an MSO?

Barbara Hedges: Because we compete with large, well-funded national organizations that don’t face the same market fragmentation challenges that most MSOs do. The geographic footprint of an MSO makes traditional mass marketing challenging, if not outright inefficient. Direct marketing is therefore critical to our success. The problem is that direct marketing doesn’t scale effectively at a local level. A national model provides comprehensive data visibility, scalable and efficient execution and accelerated learning.

CTM: Why are most of the other operators still employing decentralized, geographically divided marketing campaigns?

Hedges: Culture is by far the heaviest and most stubborn rock to move. And cable has a long, rich history of decentralized operating models held up by long-standing compensation and management structures. So the first thing I would say is that it is difficult, and requires unwavering commitment from the CEO and the executive management team. Bringing people in from outside the industry proved a necessary catalyst for our efforts. The second reason is that until you move to a data-driven model, it is difficult to prove the benefits of such a model, so you end up with a chicken and egg scenario. We overcame this by starting at a division level, with national programs added where local and division efforts would simply be inefficient. And, finally, competitive pressures and economic realities proved an agent for our cultural change. Perhaps other operators face different circumstances or have found other strategies for addressing the new environment.

CTM: What’s on your radar screen for 2008 and beyond?

Hedges: In 2008 we will be going deeper in three areas. First, now that we are tracking true customer-level data in and out of our footprint, we expect to hone in on the true lifetime value of consumers, and can adjust our marketing and operating practices accordingly. Second, we are preparing for multichannel order attribution across direct mail, telemarketing, e-mail and direct response advertising to ultimately optimize marketing across channels, not just within a channel. And finally, our predictive models are becoming more sophisticated as data availability grows.

Fast Facts

  • Charter added 630,000 revenue generating units during the first three quarters of 2007, and boosted average revenue per unit by 12.6% and 13% in the second and third quarters, respectively.

  • Since instituting Hedges’ centralized tracking system in 2006, Charter’s response rates have nearly doubled for prospecting and migration.

  • Charter’s overall return on investment has doubled since the system was adopted.

 

WINNER: JEFF GREGOR CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER, TBS, TNT AND TCM

What’s more challenging than overseeing marketing teams for the varied triumvirate of TBS, TNT and TCM? How about consolidating the disparate marketing groups and developing a centralized team driven by innovation and collaboration? That’s how Jeff Gregor spent his 2007. He told us about it.

CableFAX: The Magazine: Now that it’s done, what can you tell us about the integration at TBS, TNT and TCM?

Jeff Gregor: I feel good mostly because it’s working well and we have jelled into a strong marketing community, which was our intent in the first place. Clearly though, successful operating organizations must always remain fluid and not stagnate, so we are committed to be flexible enough to adapt our structure should new business challenges and needs dictate.

CTM: Why is it important to have fluid collaboration and shared excellence in marketing across the three networks?

Gregor: Our centers of excellence focus singularly and more deeply on key areas of the marketing process. As a result, we are more strategic with our insights, allowing us to build stronger consumer connections and consequently smarter marketing plans. In this approach, collaboration and shared excellence is mandatory for us to be successful. For instance, while one group is working on strategies, other groups simultaneously are focused on other areas of expertise like media and promotions planning, branding, digital and on-air. We get the best work from each center because of their focus and attention to detail.

CTM: What do you know to be true about marketing an entertainment brand that you did not know before you came to Turner?

Gregor: As much as you want to be all things to all people, it’s not going to happen. Decisions were made in developing TNT as the drama network and TBS as very funny to expend audience segments in order to develop a stronger relationship with core consumer groups. General entertainment networks that are not clearly defined will struggle as branded environments. This leads to the second aspect to this question, how a hit show can be so galvanizing and defining for a network brand. Everyone knows consumers watch TV shows more so than networks. But when you have a hit show, like we have on TNT with The Closer or Bill Engvall on TBS that also helps dimensionalize your brand, you fulfill your brand promise while greatly entertaining your core audience. Our original content group understands this completely and is creating shows that fit our brands.

Fast Facts

  • Gregor developed digital business plans for TBS, TNT and TCM and helped tnt.tv score its best all-time traffic day.

  • Under Gregor’s marketing stewardship, TNT’s The Closer became ad-supported cable’s No. 1 series of all time.

  • Integrated marketing helped TNT’s Saving Grace notch the No. 1 series premiere of 2007.

Honorable Mentions:

Chris McCumber, EVP, National Marketing, Digital and Brand Strategy, USA Network — McCumber last year oversaw the first comprehensive multiplatform brand identity campaign in the network’s history. He also guided The Starter Wife campaign, including grand-scale partnerships with Pond’s and Simon & Schuster.

Geof Rochester, EVP, marketing, World Wrestling Entertainment — Rochester brought added sizzle to WWE with celebrity-driven promotions, reasserted the network’s leadership in the PPV market with WrestleMania 23, and pushed interactive and digital media promotions, including the Biggest Fan campaign with Comcast’s Ziddio to make 2007 a banner year for WWE.

Linda Schupack, SVP, Marketing, AMC — Schupack oversaw the rebranding of AMC as "The Future of Classic" around the debuts of first original scripted series Mad Men and darkly comic Breaking Bad using an array of marketing tactics including cinematic on-air promos, licensing of Amy Winehouse music and a heavy online push.

Vicki Lins, SVP, Marketing and Communications, Comcast Spotlight — Lins not only stepped up to Brian Roberts to inform him Comcast needed a new brand for its ad sales division, but she’s infused Comcast Spotlight with the energy and smarts to make VOD ads comprehensible, and even wooed political advertising in 2007.

Jenny Storms, SVP, Sports Marketing and Programming, Turner Sports — Storms developed Turner’s inaugural marketing and programming campaign for the MLB championship series, refocused promotion of the network’s expanded "Wide Open" NASCAR coverage and embraced online marketing on NASCAR.com, PGATour.com and more in 2007.

 

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