It took 25 years, but Bob Oswaks landed his dream job in May 2000. As executive vice president of marketing for Sony Pictures Television, it's his job to think up how best to promote Sony's vast library of television entertainment in an increasing cluttered universe.
"Growing up, I was an entertainment junkie, and a TV and movie junkie above all else," he says. "I just always wanted to work in the business, and not in front of the camera.
"When I tried to decide what I wanted to do, my father said I should consider marketing because I am creative. Then I had a very inspirational mentor in college who gave me the ability to exercise my creativity."
After graduating from college, Oswaks immediately headed out to Los Angeles. His first job was in accounting at NBC, but he didn't last long there. His passion for marketing soon landed him at Tandem (later renamed TAT Communications), the production and syndication company owned by legendary TV producer Norman Lear and Jerry Perenchio, now head of Univision.
Working at Tandem for Barbara Brogliatti, now senior vice president and chief corporate communications officer of Warner Bros. Entertainment, Oswaks finally got to develop marketing campaigns for the TV shows he loved, including off-net launches of Maude, Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons
and Silver Spoons.
"He's very good at seeing the big picture as well as the details," Brogliatti says.
Tandem was bought by Embassy Communications and later sold to Coca-Cola, which then owned Columbia Pictures. Oswaks stayed at Embassy until the Coca-Cola sale and then moved to Paramount for a short stint. In January 1986, Jamie Kellner, then president of Orion's syndication division, hired him to launch Hollywood Squares
and CBS's Cagney and Lacey
After Orion went bankrupt in 1991, Oswaks went to global public relations firm Hill & Knowlton, which turned out not to be a good fit, and then landed at ACI, a small distributor of TV movies and miniseries. In 1996, ACI was purchased by Pearson Television, which consolidated several TV distribution companies—including All-American Television, home of Baywatch. Oswaks became head of global marketing for Pearson and relocated his family to London in 1996.
At Pearson, Oswaks worked to give the company a recognized brand where it formerly did not have one.
"You don't find people like Bob very often, and, when you find them, they are usually in the top positions in the industry. He was as good as any of the executives at the studios," says Jamie Bennett, former CEO of Pearson Worldwide Productions.
Although the Oswaks loved London, they were ready to return home to Los Angeles after 31/2 years, and Oswaks landed his job at Columbia TriStar Domestic Television, now Sony Pictures Television.
Today, Oswaks faces the same challenges as everyone else in syndication: how to make Sony's fare stand out from the crowd.
"I think what you learn is that just being creative isn't good enough," says Meade Camp, senior vice president of the client solutions group at The Weather Channel, who knows Oswaks from their days at Columbia Pictures and Embassy Television. "No one that makes progress in his kind of position has the luxury of just being creative for sport. You have to deliver for specific results."
Says Oswaks' boss, Sony Pictures Television President Steve Mosko, "As the syndication marketplace has become more challenging, Bob has found innovative ways to get our message to both stations and consumers."