TV One CEO Jonathan Rodgers called out the heavy artillery to lure Executive VP Susan Banks from Los Angeles and CBS, where she had worked for 23 years. He rang Banks' mother, who lives five minutes from the network's Maryland headquarters, and said, “Mrs. Banks, you have a chance to get your daughter back home here. Can you help me out and give her a call?”
She could and she did.
And Susan Banks moved back East. Of her boss's decision to call her mother, she says, “Oh, he was shameless.”
Rodgers is also shameless when it comes to plugging Banks' work as head of marketing and creative services. “Susan is among the best at doing what she does. She understands television, understands our audience and is able to communicate with them effectively.”
Says TV One Ad Sales Executive VP Keith Bowen, “I don't think you find Banks' quality of work at a cable startup. It is on the level of any top-tier cable or broadcast network.” He works closely with Banks and believes her biggest achievement has been marketing the 30th-anniversary rerun on TV One of the original Roots miniseries.
“For her to be able to market it strategically and reintroduce the idea as being fresh, I think, is amazing. I mean, we were doing 6.5, 6.6, 6.7 African-American ratings night after night,” Bowen points out. “Our first true marketing and ratings success [was] Roots, and Susan [deserves] a lot of accolades for that.”
Banks also oversaw the implementation of a TV One branding campaign in New York with the tagline “I See Black People,” an amusing twist on the famous line from M. Night Shyamalan's hit movie The Sixth Sense.
“The African-American audience, we tune in to things because there are black people on television,” says Banks. “We want to see ourselves on television.”
Promoting other brands alongside the network itself has become increasingly important, according to Bowen.
“Clients want their brands really to be submerged into our environment,” he says. “Banks meets that intersection between what a client's brand needs and how that brand lives in our environment without making it look cheesy.”
Banks doesn't downplay the challenge of finding that intersection. “You really have to stretch...to incorporate someone else's brand with your own,” she says.
Nor does she downplay the challenge of building a cable network brand from scratch.
Rodgers still remembers how, before he launched the network, one cable operator told him, “'Oh, I know how you cable programmers work. You put shit on the air for six months. You take the money we pay you, and then you make it a better channel.' My promise was always that we would look good from day one. Susan helped me to live up to that promise.”
Says Banks, “We have spent generations of our lives watching television and not really seeing ourselves reflected. When we see ourselves on television, we see many, many stereotypes. We don't see the real us.”
In discussing a particular marketing campaign, she adds, “I wanted to create a feeling of pride about seeing black people.”
The same can be said of all her work at TV One.