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First Mover: Jen Neal

E!'s brand-new marketing chief explains the net's new reality show

Jen Neal, evp of marketing for E!

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Specs
Age 39
New gig Evp of marketing for E!
Old gig Chief marketing officer of BBDO North America

What does your new job entail?
I am in charge of all of the marketing for E! and E! Online, so I’m leading the branding and marketing efforts for E!, leading the brand evolution, which we’re announcing to the consumer and trade press July 9. And the marketing of all the shows.

That’s a lot. How’s it going with the rebrand? 
It’s going great, I would say. The rollout to the trade community has been very well received. We’re getting very excited about the consumer “light switch” on July 9th, so folks will start to see the assets on air. It starts with a new show called Opening Act. It’s a music genre show from Nigel Lythgoe, and it’s a whole new way to do a music reality show.

How is this reality show different from all the other reality shows? 
This actually is not a competition, and it’s the only show in the format like that. There are no judges, no eliminations. It’s Nigel Lythgoe and a team of artists finding these music acts on line and surprising them with five days of boot camp, and then an opening act for one of the biggest names in the music industry. It’s so appealing, and we’re really excited about this being a new take and the moment when they take the stage. The challenge is that there are a lot of music competition shows out there.

It sounds kind of risky.
I think it’s safe to say that you’ll see it more broadly than ever before, in louder ways, figuratively and literally. There’s a tie-in to the online world, and there will be ways to engage with fans throughout the show.

How did you get to your current position?
I’ve been a hybrid marketer on purpose. I’ve worked in the entertainment space at the NBA, and then I went back and forth between media and advertising agencies. I’ve always had a passion for entertainment and pop culture brands. When I got to L.A. and this opportunity came to life, it was really perfect for me. E! is really a multiplatform brand, and my last post in New York was as CMO of BBDO, and I spent time working at PHD running a lot of categories and brands—TLC, HBO, BBC America.

You’ve been at a big agency, and now you’re at a TV network. Which do you prefer?
It’s an interesting balance in that [when you’re working for a cable outfit] you have different information about how the network works. So it’s a way to broaden my experience. Being inside, you have more tentacles—you can influence the organization directly.

A big part of the E! rebrand was the emphasis on the newsroom. What’s it like to run marketing for the news part of the business?
I look at it as another asset to help and figure out how to market. One of the great things is that, being part of the NBCU portfolio [since the Comcast/NBCU merger], I know that it’s something that will continue to grow. With the Olympics coming up soon, that’s something we’ve never had access to before. What’s coming up in London during the games? How interested are our viewers?

With E!’s emphasis on pop culture, how do you spend your spare time?
Being on the West Coast now, I’m outdoors and I’m taking advantage of the California lifestyle. I’m staying current. I’m also spending time with my husband and family, and any downtime I spend with them. This morning I listened to everything from the Gym Class Heroes to LMFAO to the Beatles to Rihanna. Having a teenage stepdaughter really helps me with that.