In a YouTube-Twitter-Facebook-post-DVR world, marketing is as crucial as ever for a TV network—but it has to be done with a mix of subtlety and bravado. As the executive VP of marketing and communications at Fox Broadcasting, Joe Earley is constantly navigating the ever-changing line between engaging consumers and drowning them with messages.
“You always have to do something extra,” Earley says. “So you have to do the basic media buys because otherwise you're just not going to hit the eyeballs. But people are so immune to messages now that you've got to find ways around those filters.”
Some of Earley's latest initiatives include Internet ads for Fox's new season of So You Think You Can Dance. The ads featured host Cat Deeley and judge Nigel Lythgoe kicking a dancing man—an annoyingly pervasive character in online advertising—off the screen. “Haven't you wanted to kick that guy off your screen?” Earley asks rhetorically.
During Fox's upfront presentation last month, executives unveiled Alive Air, their latest strategy for combating ad-skipping on linear television and promoting the network's shows by sprinkling show-related content throughout breaks. Fox experimented with the concept this spring with topical spots for Family Guy, Ryan Seacrest doing live commercials and chef Gordon Ramsay answering viewer letters on-air.
At the start of Earley's career, a development job with producer Gale Anne Hurd (The Terminator) fed his interest in production. “It gave me a really well-rounded understanding of everything from call sheets to notes,” he says. “It was this great foundation so that when I would go on a set and talk to producers, I knew the difference between a line producer and an executive producer.”
He segued to publicity at HBO and joined Fox in 1994 as a senior publicist. He rose through the ranks to head the network's communications department, and last summer was elevated to also oversee marketing, a move that united the publicity and marketing departments.
The new parameters of branding in the digital age mean Earley and his team are creating content, not just marketing messages.
“[Advertising has] become white noise,” Earley says. “What do you do that will make people not only notice but be glad that they did? We don't want to annoy you. We try to make sure that we're being entertaining wherever we are.” —Marisa Guthrie