HBO is back. That's the message Courteney Monroe and her marketing team will be ramping up this month as the pay-cable channel kicks off a string of premieres for new and returning shows over the next four months.
And if the erotic, blood-filled ads for the June 14 return of vampire series True Blood are any indication, HBO's emphasis on high-concept, eye-catching marketing is alive and well.
It's a standard that Monroe, HBO's executive VP of consumer marketing, has sought to uphold ever since she started there as an advertising manager in June 1998, just as the channel was preparing to launch the series that cemented its status as an original-programming powerhouse.
The Sopranos was Monroe's first project. Working through initial concerns about the title (at one point, “The Family Guy” was considered as an alternative), the marketing team ultimately distilled the show's central drama into the memorable tagline, “If one family doesn't kill him, the other one will.”
As the channel continued to churn out cultural touchstones like Sex and the City, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Six Feet Under, the slogan “It's Not TV, It's HBO” became “a compass,” Monroe says. “We strive to make the marketing as innovative as the programming.”
Monroe developed a passion for marketing early on as an account executive at BBDO, a longtime branding partner of HBO's. After receiving an M.B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, she worked at American Express on customer loyalty and retention marketing, but felt drawn to the entertainment world and soon landed at HBO.
In addition to overseeing marketing for all of the channel's entertainment and sports programming, Monroe is responsible for retail marketing, including HBO Home Entertainment, as well as HBO.com.
In 2007, she teamed with her old agency, BBDO, on HBO Voyeur, a branding campaign that involved projecting a short film on the side of a Manhattan building to create the effect of seeing through the wall and into the lives of the people behind it.
As she oversees a redesign of HBO.com by digital firm R/GA that aims to make the site more video-rich and bring its community functions to the fore, Monroe is preparing for a busy summer and fall. On June 28, new series Hung premieres in tandem with the return of Entourage, followed by the September premiere of new series Bored to Death and the return of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
As Monroe puts it: “To have the opportunity to market shows like these and work with programming of this quality—it's the greatest gig ever.” —Joel Topcik