In 2004, when Jason Klarman joined Bravo as head of marketing, he was also put in charge of the network's Web operations. At that time, putting digital operations under the direction of the marketing department was fairly common, reflecting the notion that Websites were little more than promotional tools.
Bravo's management, however, believed that online efforts would play a key role in the network's future, and over the next few years, Klarman and his team worked to revamp their digital operations, making them an integral part of the network's overall brand.
In early 2005, Bravo became the first U.S. network to make a new show, Queer Eye for the Straight Girl, available to viewers simultaneously on-air and online. Klarman and his team also spearheaded the creation of a Trio suite of broadband channels—BrilliantBut Cancelled.com, OUTzoneTV.com and getTRIO.com—and ramped up online efforts at BravoTV.com. This June, the company is launching a food portal and is planning others, including one for fashion.
That has sharply boosted traffic at Bravo's various Websites, with a 123% increase in unique visitors between 2004, when Klarman joined the network, and March 2007, when he was promoted to executive VP, marketing and digital.
“On a strategic level, Jason's online work has been a driver of Bravo's business,” says Bravo President Lauren Zalaznick. “He's turned marketing from a dirty word—i.e., a cost center—and turned it into a revenue generator.”
Klarman planned on a career in law or investment banking when he was getting a B.A. in economics and political science at the University of Michigan. During a semester of study at Oxford, however, he decided to pursue something closer to his heart and break into the television industry.
He interned at WXYZ Detroit in 1989 and then moved to New York after graduation, where it took a few years and lots of rejections before he finally landed a job in the PR department of CNBC in 1993.
At CNBC and later at Fox News, where he worked on the launch of the network and oversaw consumer and trade marketing, Klarman says, he learned the importance of having a clear, compelling brand.
“The brand is king,” he says. “You have to have a very singular brand-focused message if you want to break through the clutter.”
Klarman moved to Trio in 2001 as senior VP of marketing. It was there that he met Zalaznick, who was so impressed with his work that she brought him over to Bravo.
One of his first tasks was the rebranding of Bravo, which was airing such shows as Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Celebrity Poker Showdown and Blow Out.
“The challenge was to tie all of those things together in a meaningful way,” he says.
To do that, he came up with a new tagline: “Watch What Happens.”
Says Klarman, “It highlights the fact that Bravo viewers are always looking to see what will happen and the drama that ensues.”