The Young Ones

In case you weren’t paying attention in history class, life is full of examples of what creative minds can accomplish while those minds are still young. John D. Rockefeller built his first oil refinery when he was 24. When The Great Gatsby was published in 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald was all of 29. Albert Einstein had hit the ripe old age of 26 when he decided to redefine the laws of the universe with E=MC2. And when bicycle-shop owner Wilbur Wright lifted off in the world’s first mechanically-powered aircraft from a North Carolina beach in 1903, he was 36. (Brother Orville, watching from the dunes, was 32.)

For those of us busy leading life’s second half, these anecdotes are perhaps more dispiriting than inspiring. And yet, there’s no denying that there are opportunities for all of us that stem from the innovations of those rare few wunderkinds with the original ideas. Perhaps no place is this maxim more applicable than in the business world — and this magazine’s world, especially. Sure, it takes a quick mind to make the numbers work in a Wall Street accounting firm (especially these days). But few realms of capitalism are more dependent on creative thinking, risk taking and personal flair than those of advertising, marketing and the media.

Creative thinking…like that of Calle and Pelle Sjönell, ad shop BBH’s sibling duo of creative directors who are melding the worlds of traditional brand building and interactive social media into a new advertising paradigm. Risk taking…like that of Neeraj Khemlani, who left a stellar career in TV journalism to revolutionize Web-based storytelling for Yahoo. Inspired leadership…like that of Antonio Bertone, the skateboarding CMO educated in Boston’s dance clubs who’s fearless trailblazing transformed Puma from a sneaker into a lifestyle brand.

They, and the seven others who join them in this AdweekMedia spotlight, aren’t just under-the-radar success stories; most of them are under 40 years old, too. In case that makes you feel a little behind the curve, it might help to remember one other example from the history  books. Colonel Harlan Sanders started franchising Kentucky Fried Chicken (and building a considerable personal fortune) at age 65. It’s proof that you’re never too old to innovate — just like these 10 executives prove that you’re never too young, either.

–Robert Klara


MICHELLE MYERS: The Self-Styled Publisher

JASON ASH: The Ironman of Marketing

ALEXIS BRUNNER: Animal Magnetism

TIFFANY KOSEL: Old Navy’s Young Gun

ERIK SEIDEL: A Marketer on a Roll

IAN SCHAFER: Social Media Butterfly

NEERAJ KHEMLANI: Blending Old and New School

LISA NAMEROW: Tuned In to Growth


ANTONIO BERTONE: The Secret to Puma’s Pounce


How Michelle Myers made People StyleWatch a must-have item

Lucia Moses, Mediaweek

(Photo by Aaron Kotowski)

Michelle Myers still remembers the drubbing she got as a tenderfoot journalism grad trying to land a sales job at Us magazine. “You have no experience,” the publisher had sniffed. “Why would I want to hire you?” Myers replied: “Just give me a chance.”

That took plenty of backbone, but it taught the young sales exec that persistence pays. As it turns out for Myers, persistence would pay twice. In 2007, she took over as publisher of People StyleWatch. Five years out of its launch, the shopping magazine — which featured little more than glossy shots of products and celebrities — was still regarded dubiously by skeptics who questioned why it was needed in a market already clogged with celeb rags. “There was a lot of resistance at first,” Myers recalls. “The biggest [objection] was, ‘if I’m buying People, do I really need StyleWatch?'”

Myers has proven that they do. In her first year at the title, she wooed big-league advertisers like Citibank, Chanel and Clinique. By 2008, ad pages had jumped by 38 percent. StyleWatch’s circulation has grown, too. Since 2007, its rate base has jumped by 27 percent from 550,000 to 700,000. And, in an era of cut-rate subscriptions, the magazine’s single-copy sales have averaged a robust 527,000 copies per month.

Luring advertisers took strategy, of course. Myers commissioned research to demonstrate the magazine’s core premise: That celebrities aren’t just paparazzi fodder, they influence what consumers buy. “We really needed to explain to people in the advertising community the power of the StyleWatch brand as a separate magazine serving a different audience of younger women who love the People brand, but love the fashion and beauty trends celebrities are wearing.”

Myers also was able to prove that readers shop from the magazine’s pages. A regular editorial feature called “In Stores Now” often features a line that’s created a promotion specifically for StyleWatch readers. Though the content remains the purview of editor Susan Kaufman, Myers has stockpiled examples of retailers and designers whose sales shot up in the weeks after their promotion ran.

“When we do this, [the results are] very trackable,” she says, adding that the feature is particularly relevant today, with advertisers demanding proof of performance. Andrea Luhtanen, president of Haworth Media, whose client, Target, signed on as a StyleWatch advertiser in 2008, recalls that her first reaction to the pub was, “Do we really need this?” But over time, she says, “It grew into something that lives as a brand. It just became so current.”

Myers, too, grew into her currency as a top publisher. As a teenager growing up in the New York City suburb of Long Island, she devoured shopping magazines — a habit hardly discouraged by her mother, an unabashed shopaholic. Myers parlayed those interests into a meteoric ad-sales career, going from Us to Condé Nast’s Allure and then American Media’s Star before landing at StyleWatch. Amy Monroe, who followed Myers from Allure to Star, where she’s now Midwest ad director, lauds Myers’ knack for remembering details, a talent that’s helped her both attract and stay close to advertisers. “We had a client we’d probably met [only] one other time, and she specifically remembered that this person always had a cosmo before dinner,” Monroe recalls. “When she’s with people, she is really listening.”

Myers will have to keep listening, of course, because sustaining StyleWatch’s momentum in today’s dismal economic environment won’t be easy. The magazine is still benefiting from its newness; ad pages ticked up 2 percent through May while the fashion/beauty category plummeted 28 percent, per the Mediaweek Monitor. No matter what happens, however, Myers has one piece of proof that her title is now the act to beat. Us Weekly — the magazine that nearly didn’t give her a break all those years ago-planned its own celebrity fashion spinoff to compete with StyleWatch. That is, it did until the recession hit.


For triathlete Jason Ash, branding is just another race to run — and win

By Kenneth Hein, Brandweek

(Photo by Aaron Kotowski)

Even in a sensory-overload place like New York’s Times Square, a one-of-a-kind spectacle went down on the afternoon of June 21, 2007. High above Seventh Avenue, in a niche of the Reuters Building, a shirtless guy was casually trotting along on a treadmill, oblivious to the thousands of people staring up at him.

A launch of a new athletic shoe? A promo for expensive workout equipment? Not quite. It was the kickoff of Cadbury Schweppes’ $50 million blitz for Accelerade, the ready-to-drink sports beverage that was presumably helping über-athlete Dean Kamazes — he was the shirtless guy — set a world’s record for the 24-hour endurance run.

It was a proud moment for Jason Ash, then the 33-year-old general manager of Cadbury’s sports, energy and water business-but a moment was all it was. Soon afterwards, Cadbury switched strategy and sold off Accelerade, and the young Ash’s plans along with it.

Most would find the failure crushing, but Ash was not about to give up. He believed in Accelerade’s protein-rich line (it might be because Ash happens to be an Ironman athlete himself). Initially hoping to sublicense the New Jersey-based brand’s pills, powders and gels from the U.K, Ash changed his plans after PacificHealth Labs chairman Robert Portman asked him: “Why not just move here and do it? “The consumer strategy for the business was not optimized,” Ash recalls. “I was being given the chance to do it on the big playing field in the U.S.” He accepted.

As far as marketing the brand went, well, Ash had already had a few ideas about marketing. As a student at the University of Durham in England, he’d made a tidy sum by signing up local pubs to advertise in leaflets he then crammed into fellow students’ pigeonholes (American translation: mailboxes). Ash’s plans to “take the business to London and obliterate the leaflet market,” however, were detoured by a stint as a pro rugby player. But Ash cut that gig short, figuring he should “probably learn how to use a calculator.” He went to work for food giant Unilever where, before long, he found himself promoted to brand manager of Marmite.

A spread made from yeast extract, the shoe-brown, salty, tar-like condiment is either loved or loathed by Brits. And it was this very theme that Ash graphically (and, by consensus, hilariously) harnessed for a TV spot in which a nerdy guy’s dream-come-true kiss with a beautiful woman is ruined (he breaks into a fit of retching) because she’s just eaten some Marmite. The commercial would win Unilever its first BATT gold award in seven years.

Things moved quickly for Ash after that. His work for Unilever got him poached by rival Masterfoods. Ash’s creation of an explosively popular pouch-packaged “express rice” product for Uncle Ben’s in turn got him poached by Cadbury Schweppes. In 2002, Ash went to work on candy brand Bassett’s. He gave Bertie Bassett, the brand’s candy-man mascot first introduced in 1929, a computer-generated makeover while simultaneously launching the “Allsorts” line extension.

The success of both within his first year at the company landed him a promotion overseeing the firm’s business in Istanbul, Turkey. A year after that, Ash found himself in Texas as the marketing director of Dr Pepper North America. There, he helped push through the brand’s first major repackaging in about 10 years. But soon, Ash would be assigned the task of tackling the growth areas of the beverage business heading up its sports, energy and water portfolio. And, well, we know how that ended.

Today, at 34, Ash is notching his second year at PacificHealth, which has licensed Accelerade back from Dr Pepper. Accelerade sells at leading retailers including GNC and Vitamin Shoppe, but according to Gerry Khermouch, editor of Beverage Business Insights, the drink still has plenty of untapped potential. “Certainly there seems to be an undercurrent of consumer disenchantment with existing sports drinks that some of the more protein-oriented marketers may be able to tap into,” he says. Not one to sit out a race, however, Ash has moved on to develop other sports beverages. He’s at work on the launch of one called ForzeGPS, an appetite suppressant that comes in a liquid form aimed squarely at Slim-Fast and Muscle Milk. “It’s a great opportunity to expand the business,” he says.

In a short but successful career, Ash has already done a good deal of that sort of thing. But what about that dream of dominating the leaflet business? “I’ve managed to let that one go,” he says.


Alexis Brunner dumped the cute critters and let Animal Planet pounce

By Robert Klara, Brandweek

(Photo by Bill Cramer)

It’s a hushed house at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater on a recent, rainy afternoon and the brass at Animal Planet-including vp and creative director Alexis Brunner-have taken a seat in the cushy rows to watch a dry run of the channel’s upfront presentation. As the lights dim, LCD screens air previews of the season’s programming. Whales surface in icy, Antarctic waters. Plucky meerkats scramble across the dry plain. Then the camera creeps in close-very close-to a family of tigers. The mother of the pack regards the lens with a narrowed, protective eye. In a split second, 500 pounds of Panthera tigris lunges forward with a hellish growl, her milk-white fangs nearly tearing the lens off.

Startled, the audience slams into its seatbacks. But here’s what’s strange: Brunner does, too-even though she knew it was coming; even though she’s worked on this spot for weeks. That flinch tells you two key things about this 39-year-old marketer. Alexis Brunner prefers a strong reaction and she’s willing to push the limits. “She pushes on strategy and insight more than I’ve ever seen a creative director do,” says svp of marketing and operations Vicki Lowell. Adds Animal Planet president Marjorie Kaplan, “She’s like a pit bull.”

At Animal Planet, being called that name is a compliment. And a big one, too, because 13 months ago, a pit bull (at least the marketing kind) is exactly what the channel needed.

Since first going on the air in 1996, Animal Planet had been the doggie-and-kitty station. It was safe, reliable — and stagnant. With Kaplan assuming the corner office in 2007, Animal Planet changed with chameleon speed, rolling out a roster of faster-paced, mature programming that would appeal to the viewer aged 25-54. As Kaplan says frequently: “We’ve shed our cute and cuddly image. We’re plenty entertaining, and a little edgy.” Brunner (whose first major TV job was co-launching the CTC network in Russia and, later, re-branding the Discovery Kids Channel in the U.S.) came aboard to market the entertaining and edgy part.

The newer, less-cutesy Animal Planet has hunted down more viewers. The channel pulled in 6.3 percent more total households this April versus last and its 18-49 viewership rose 17.9 percent, per Horizon Media, New York.

How do you make adorable little critters edgy? Exhibit A is Meerkat Manor, a show that followed the daily romp of a family of the tiny mammals. While Season Two got an attitudinal makeover with bolder storylines and a sharper character development, Brunner’s marketing reflected the shift. “I said, we have to get this way out of the box,” Brunner remembers. “This is life-or-death drama.” In the new ads, the meerkat family appeared Sopranos-style, standing in a well of spotlights with blood-red lettering beneath. “The Family is Back,” it said.

Then there was Whale Watch, a show that wasn’t even produced when Brunner was told to market it. Her 30-second spot (a “tone poem,” she calls it) not only established a template for the look and feel of the show, it distilled the new attitude of Animal Planet’s programming with raw, quick-cutting footage set to popular music. (Smashing Pumpkins, in this case.) Brunner did the same for Jockeys, a real-life drama about the injury-prone lives of those who ride racehorses, with an ad showing a helmet being murderously trampled by horse hooves.

Meanwhile, Brunner also overhauled the network logo (transforming it from a tame-looking elephant-with-beachball into a slick, typographic icon) and its tagline, which became “Same Planet. Different World” — a double entendre that spoke both to the dualistic natural world as well as the updated personality of the network.

Brunner is quick to deny credit for all this, maintaining that her contribution is mainly a willingness to listen to, and take a chance on, the ideas bandied about by co-workers. “We have,” Brunner says, “an open-source environment here.” Kaplan adds: “She’s built an organization where everyone is challenged to be their best selves. She’s raised an umbrella under which they can deliver.” Pity the umbrella’s no protection from a charging lioness.


How Tiffany Kosel became the queen bee at dude-centric Crispin

By Eleftheria Parpis, Adweek

(Photo: Kevin Knight)

Tiffany kosel is the only female creative director at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, but she’s no token hire. In fact, as a testament to her indispensability to the firm, a few years ago agency creative leader Alex Bogusky recently made an exception to staff policy and let Kosel work remotely, rather than in the shop’s Boulder, Colo., office. “She can have a cubicle on the moon. There is no doubt in my mind that she will get the job done,” he says. “Tiffany has one gear-full on.”

The 32-year-old Kosel’s ascendance at Crispin is especially noteworthy since the shop is best known for advertising that appeals to the 13-year-old boy in all of us, like its 2006 “I am man” ad for Burger King showing an unshaven guy storming out of a chi-chi restaurant while singing, “I’m way too hungry to settle for chick food.” To put it mildly, Crispin’s not known for its feminine side. “I’ve been working on a lot of dude accounts,” says Kosel, who has garnered awards for her work on Burger King, Volkswagen and BMW Mini.

Nevertheless, Kosel’s latest assignment gives her the opportunity to draw on her XX chromosomal makeup. That project is a very Crispin take on Old Navy, which centers on “SuperModelquins,” rising young stars who are, get this, mannequins. (Crispin has a thing for spokesmen like the BK King who can’t move their lips.)

Kosel is putting a lot of her energy into the campaign, which employs a celeb tabloid-style circular and is a statement on America’s focus on celebrities. Or something. “They have real lives seemingly, they have different types of personalities that we can all connect with, juggling different roles, pressures, and they also have a little aspiration and glamour,” says Kosel. “We all just can’t get enough of celebrities, as you know.”

Apparently. Crispin won the Old Navy account, valued at $200 million, in October. The Gap-owned chain, launched in 1992 as a value brand to contrast with the middle-tier Gap and the higher-end Banana Republic, has exhibited a lack of marketing focus in recent years, but is currently the healthiest of Gap’s brands. March sales were flat versus an 8 percent drop for the flagship.

Perhaps that’s evidence that Crispin’s idea to exhume the camp positioning of the chain’s early days (when it showed ads featuring Morgan Fairchild and Joan Collins as TV spokespeople and a terrier named “Magic,” a mascot) is working. “We want to create more of the energy Old Navy used to have,” says Kosel. If Kosel is able to help turn Old Navy’s sales around for the long-term, it will be the latest in a line of accomplishments. Kosel’s original plan was to become an actress and, after graduating high school in Tulsa, Okla., she moved to Los Angeles to achieve her dream. Instead, she began working at a start-up Web company, writing, designing and programming sites for A Bug’s Life, The Little Mermaid and George of the Jungle. “It was during the Web boom, you could do whatever you wanted,” she says, describing, among her experiences, voicing characters for a Disney Web site and presenting to Steve Jobs. “It was fun and crazy. I was a millionaire on paper for like a day. You can sense the decline was coming.”

As the dot-com bubble became the dot-com crash, Kosel shifted gears and enrolled at Art Center College of Design. “I learned what I did on my own,” she explains. “I wanted to get better at it.” After graduation, she headed straight to Miami to maneuver her way into an interview with Crispin. “That was the only place I wanted to work,” she says. She then quickly proved herself with a steady stream of all-nighters. “I looked like a mess, but I enjoyed it,” she says. “All I could do was work as much as I can, not stopping and being as smart as I could, strategic as I could.”

Kosel traces her ability to excel at Crispin to a childhood lived like “an army brat without the army.” Her father, an investor, had many business interests, so she switched schools nearly every year and learned how to make friends fast to survive. “Sometimes I was a nerd and sometimes I was cool,” she says. “It depends who befriends you in the course of your first two days.” Bogusky says he sees the results-Kosel has great people skills and doesn’t let her ego get in the way of the work: “She is very selfless about the ideas, she just gets excited about the work.” Right now, she’s excited about Old Navy. A month or so into the campaign, Kosel is throwing out ideas for the chain including naming products like the Midtown gown, designing a drink duffel bag for future sale and a even a possible line of SuperModelquin gear for Halloween. “It helps connect, make all the ideas more solid,” she says. “We’re having fun doing all sorts of things.”


Erik Seidel has helped Scott’s tissue products wipe up the competition

By Elaine Wong, Brandweek

(Photo by John Sibilski)

Erik Seidel wants to save America from the dreaded “spare a square” fate. In case you’re not familiar with Seinfeld, there’s an episode in which Elaine runs out of toilet paper in the ladies’ room of a theater and the woman in the next stall refuses to share any. (“Look, I don’t have a square and I don’t have a ply,” she says.)

Snicker all you want, but based on the findings of consumer focus groups, “There is this big fear out there of people [in public restrooms] running out of toilet paper,” says Seidel, brand director for Kimberly-Clark’s Scott portfolio. In his exclusive career with K-C (Seidel joined the company right out of grad school), he’s actually helped to address that national anxiety. In fact, when it comes to just about anything tissue-related, Seidel’s solved a problem.

Whether or not it was in direct response to the TP-shortage fear, Seidel helped create Scott Extra Soft, a 600-sheet roll. Hold on! Doesn’t Scott already have a 1,000-sheet tissue? Yes, but softness and value are key, too, and balancing the three is something of an art form. The new tissue, Seidel says, was “as soft as the premium brand” (a.k.a. Procter & Gamble’s Charmin)-but it delivered better on the value front.  Prior to this innovation, Seidel says, Scott “was a sleeping giant as far as a brand. We hadn’t done a lot in terms of new product innovations.” Extra Soft turned out to be the third most successful nonfood introduction of 2005, per IRI.

Seidel also was instrumental in reaching out to the traditionally overlooked Hispanic consumer base for Scott products with a 2007 promo called “Dichonario” (created in conjunction with Miami-based firm MASS Hispanic), a huge, online effort aimed at collecting colloquial wisdom of Spanish-speaking Americans. Consumers submitted 160,000 “dichos” (Example: Mal camino no conduce a buen sitio; “A bad path never leads to a good place”). Scott’s Web site created for the promo became something of an entertainment destination, receiving 2 million hits. Meanwhile, in targeted markets, Scott product sales rose 30 percent.

The road to Scott was an unlikely one for Seidel. A mechanical engineering and economics graduate of MIT (and a football player to boot), he spent years at Intel before realizing that engineering wasn’t his calling. “It was the beginning of a transition away from the hardcore analytics to more general management in a technical field,” Seidel says. After snaring an MBA at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, he found his vocation at K-C.

For its part, the company’s pleased with its draft pick. “We’ve seen him go from collaborating with other people, to moving into leading other teams, to now — in his director role — inspiring other people throughout the organization,” says Alan Loux, vp, North American family care. Seidel, adds Dave Caputo, brand manager for Scott towels, “is a thinker as much as he is a doer. Being a football player at MIT, he’s got a bit of that grit in him. He’s not afraid to dive right in and he really does lead by example.”

Often, that leadership has come in the form of tackling small problems that other brand and marketing executives might overlook. While an assistant brand manager on Viva towels, Seidel wondered why the decorative printing on paper towels was always horizontal when many dispensers stood the rolls vertically. The result was Viva Vertical Prints. Rolled out via a grassroots, pr, in-store and online campaign, the product resulted in higher profit margins and sales.

Such initiatives, and others under Seidel’s leadership, have helped Scott realize more than $1 billion in North American sales for its parent company, as well as hold the No. 2 market position overall. Not that Seidel is sitting on the sidelines, of course. He’s currently trying to foster what he calls a “House of Scott” mentality, getting colleagues to regard Scott as an interrelated family of brands as opposed to a mere agglomeration of products under a single company name. The vision is crucial, Seidel says, to improving new-product marketing strategy.

Meanwhile, Seidel remains focused on every detail that has to do with tissue — which, of course, leads to the eternal question: Is it better to load toilet paper rolls so they feed over the top or underneath? “That’s a key debate in my house,” Seidel admits. “The ‘under’ looks cleaner and neater because you don’t see it. The ‘over’ is more convenient.”

In time, Seidel may well solve this problem, too. Stay tuned.


By Brian Morrissey, Adweek

Ian Schafer built Deep Focus by anticipating new forms of digital media

(Photo by David Yellen)

The competition to help brands find their place in media platforms is pretty intense, so for a modest-size agency like Deep Focus, having a string of “firsts” is particularly impressive. First homepage video ad on YouTube? Yep. First use of Google Maps for advertising purposes? Check. First brand integration with an iPhone app, first brand to use Facebook Connect? Been there, done that.

To reach such milestones, it helps to have a CEO who’s a bit of a techie. Few agency chiefs can boast they’ve coded in Unix for AT&T while juggling a summer course in advanced calculus, but then again Ian Schafer isn’t your typical ad man. “I’ve had a fascination with programming and technology my whole life,” Schafer says. “Having that understanding has proven indispensable in understanding how to leverage new platforms. The greatest potential for advertisers is to look at Web sites as platforms.”

Schafer, 34, figures to be in the thick of the action as advertising continues its metamorphosis, driven by digital technology. Schafer’s 65-person shop — which posted $10 million in revenue last year — has built a reputation as a pioneer in exploiting new media tools on behalf of clients like HBO, AMC and Dewar’s. Schafer, who writes a well-read blog and has about 2,500 followers on Twitter, established himself as a prominent voice for a new kind of marketing that uses tech tools to tap into the social Web. “He totally gets it and he backs it every day in the way he lives and breathes it,” says Mark Silva, CEO of San Francisco agency Real Branding. “He’s the real thing.”

Schafer had to learn how to be resourceful. He started his career overseeing the online marketing for Miramax. While his title as vp of new media sounds impressive, what that actually meant for Schafer was finding ways to get attention for movies on the cheap. Schafer began leaking clips and trailers online to get some buzz. “It forced me to innovate internally and do more with less,” he says. “At the time, it was to make sure videos were up on QuickTime. We ended up taking big leaps by forging content distribution partnerships. We got our trailers seen more than anybody else.” Schafer was doing that eight years ago. For Bridget Jones’s Diary in 2001, Schafer made the movie’s site part of MSN, an attempt to “put the content where people are,” which was a shift away from the conventional wisdom that you should make your movie site as sticky as possible. Schafer noticed that Miramax, like many marketers, lacked an overarching digital strategy. Design shops thought only about executing Web design. Online media agencies saw only ad opportunities. “I saw where everything was headed, which was experiences becoming more portable ad shared.” He used that insight to create Deep Focus in 2002. “I saw that none of the people know what the other hand is doing,” he said. “I was left with a decision: Do I bring all the functions internal, look for other agencies or start my own agency?” Deep Focus zeroed in on entertainment clients with an eye to expanding into new areas. Thanks to his experience in movie marketing, Schafer made a decision that would pay dividends later: he included media and public relations in the model.

For a movie, so-called earned media is just as important as paid advertising. And most important of all, they had to work together. “The Internet is infinitely fragmentable,” he said. “That requires the unsiloing of everything.”

Deep Focus seems particularly well suited to social media. Take its work for Flight of the Conchords. Deep Focus was able to build not so much a campaign but a customer-led movement that “turned them into ambassadors of the content,” in Schafer’s words. The show has more than 500,000 fans on Facebook. Deep Focus works to seed the fan page with a constant drip of content, even offseason. This past December, during a long break between season one and two, it created a fan hub to celebrate them rather than just the series. “Lip Dub” solicited consumer videos lip-syncing to the group’s most popular songs. What’s best, the 200-odd fans who contributed videos became a distribution mechanism. “We turned each individual into a broadcaster,” he says. Schafer applied the same lessons to the AMC series Mad Men. When fans started Twittering as characters, he advised AMC to let them be. “I live and breathe this stuff,” he says. “I’d be doing it if I was a podiatrist.”


Colleagues credit Neeraj Khemlani for balancing business with creativity

By Mike Shields, Mediaweek

Neeraj Khemlani was facing one of those all-too-typical life decisions: keep spending the bulk of his time with jewel thieves and Bin Laden associates, or try and figure out how to reinvent news on the Internet. Back in 2006, Khemlani, then a producer at CBS’ 60 Minutes, was in the midst of “a glorious run through network TV,” he recalls. “I had been hanging out with spooks and four-star generals and hard-drinking Congressmen.”

Since February, Khemlani has labored at the heart of Hearst Corp.’s digital efforts, as vp and special assistant to the CEO for the publishing giant’s digital media arm. But it’s his colorful career, first as a journalist and then as Yahoo’s executive editor of news, that has earned him the reputation of embodying that rare combination of business acumen matched with creative wits.
His journalistic career has ranged from stints as a producer at 60 Minutes, 60 Minutes II and World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, to time spent as a documentary filmmaker and book researcher. He’s arranged interviews with both Osama Bin Laden’s spiritual advisor and Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi. He’s done reporting for Congressman Charlie Wilson’s book, Charlie Wilson’s War, and visited former Soviet nuclear reactors. Most recently, he’d been investigating jewel thieves in Florida. “I was doing all these wild things,” he says. “Then we suddenly got pregnant.” With twins.

Around that time, Khemlani had just completed a distribution deal for 60 Minutes with Yahoo. Then-Yahoo CEO Terry Semel and media head Lloyd Braun asked the New York based Khemlani if he was interested in moving West and joining the company. He faced a tough choice: “The babies were coming … [and] I wasn’t sure I wanted to run around nuclear facilities anymore,” he recalls. “Plus, online video was starting to take off. I thought, ‘I could stay and deal with all of the issues of a network and scale down, or I could scale up’ … Boom, I was off to L.A.”

Khemlani became Yahoo’s general manager and executive editor of news, letting him get comfortable with the Web side of the media landscape, on top of his traditional-media knowledge base. “It was the greatest thing I ever did,” he says. “I got a digital MBA. What that has done has made me essentially bilingual.”

At first, not everybody at Yahoo was certain that pulling a producer from the oldest of old media was the greatest idea (60 Minutes is about as old-school as it gets). “I was a little skeptical,” says Scott Moore, the former head of Yahoo’s U.S. audience (now head of Microsoft’s U.S. content efforts). “But Neeraj has a brilliant creative mind. I’d venture to say that he’s the most creative person I’ve worked with.”

Together, Moore and Khemlani delved into producing original content by crafting the launch of Tech Ticker, a daily video series/blog that focuses on technology stocks. At times, the series draws a bigger audience than CNBC. Also during his Yahoo tenure, Khemlani learned the art of ad sales, convincing Dunkin’ Donuts to sponsor two specifically-created, daily short-form series: Good Morning Yahoo and Yahoo Sports Minute. “Neeraj was the guy that glued the pieces together,” says Moore.

Still, Khemlani didn’t realize that his move West and into the digital world was truly a success until he visited with legendary 60 Minutes producer Don Hewitt. Khemlani was there to demonstrate Yahoo’s first foray into a producing a live Democratic presidential debate back in September 2007. “Instead of a linear experience,” says Khemlani, “I wanted the user to become a moderator. If I’m online interested in candidate A, B, and C, and issue D and E, that’s what I can watch.”

Khemlani showed a preview of the debate to Hewitt, who can claim some credit for putting the famous 1960 Nixon Kennedy debate on TV. “He said, Neeraj, get the f— out of my office. Yours is better than mine.’ That was a circle-of-life moment for me. I saw the potential for good storytelling on the Web.”

Likely seeing the same potential, Hearst in early 2009 called Khemlani and asked him to take on his new role. At the magazine giant, Khemlani will have a chance to work with every Hearst title while figuring out how they should all work together on bigger digital opportunities. Despite his Yahoo successes, and all the challenges facing the magazine business, Khemlani feels the timing was perfect. “There is an interesting tipping point in traditional media happening,” he says. “It just may be the time that it is easier to influence technology in a media company than it is to influence media in a technology company. Great Web storytelling is not the exclusive domain of tech companies on the West coast.”

Once again, for Khemlani, it was another major career decision, driven both by opportunity and life circumstances. “Plus, I was ready to come back to New York,” he says. “I missed my Yankee tickets.”


Lisa Namerow finds the right partners and technologies to expand AOL Radio

By Noreen O’Leary, Adweek

(Photo by Colin M. Lenton)

AOL’s Lisa Namerow is propelling the company’s Internet radio operations into the future even as she draws upon the medium’s traditional local roots. The 41-year-old vp of AOL’s radio offerings created a partnership with CBS Radio, leveraging CBS’ stronghold in local sales at a time when online royalty payments are soaring and Internet radio providers are scrambling to find better ways to monetize their offerings. The relaunch of AOL radio last June not only gave AOL enviable scale, thanks to CBS’ sales teams in more than 100 local markets, it also introduced a breakthrough interactive, user-friendly player.
“Lisa has done a great job questioning the status quo and leaning into new methodologies, strategies, tactics,” says her boss, Mike Rich, senior vp of Media Glow, AOL’s digital publishing unit. “She breaks inertia thinking and reinvents and reinvigorates from a business perspective.”

That kind of innovation drove Namerow’s launch of the AOL Radio iPhone app, which won an Apple Design Award for ‘Best Entertainment Application’ last June. (AOL Radio is now the No. 3 iPhone music app by iTunes.) Namerow, who has been with AOL for nearly nine years, was running AOL’s radio operations by the time she was 35. In addition to the 250 music stations AOL programs and the 100-plus CBS radio stations, Namerow has oversight of SHOUTcast, a directory of 26,000 global stations where station operators choose to add their operations to the listings. Two months ago, Namerow was given additional responsibility for AOL TV and Moviefone, with oversight of ongoing product extensions. She recently relaunched AOL Television Celebrity pages, which give users features like real-time celebrity gossip and Twitter updates.

“It’s all about creating a passionate engagement with the consumer and deliver the best experience possible,” says Namerow. “We are very driven by consumer feedback. Our developers, designers, business development team all read that feedback; it’s not just our top executives.”

Namerow climbed the ranks at AOL through marketing. Prior to her current role, she was director of marketing for AOL Radio. Before that, she was senior manager for AOL Brand Marketing Group, where she managed online and offline entertainment and music marketing. She was also the brand manager of AOL’s ‘Celebrity You’ve Got Mail’ franchise contest for three years.

It’s a little ironic that Namerow grew up in a Hartford, Conn., family where her father, an electrical wholesaler, claims he still doesn’t know who Britney Spears is. Nevertheless, his eldest daughter — one of three girls — knew at a young age her future would involve the entertainment industry. In high school, her jobs included a stint at a record store “straight out of High Fidelity.” At Ithaca College, Namerow juggled an overnight DJ slot at the campus radio station with her studies in corporate communications management. After graduation, she landed a gig as an assistant to Rude Awakening director Aaron Russo. She then broke into radio, handling promotions at WTIC-FM in Hartford and later moving to Saga Communications, where she had several positions, including marketing director of the company’s Norfolk, Va., stations.

Namerow’s intense focus and drive at work is balanced by her life outside the office. She admits her favorites on AOL radio are “cheesy stations” like ‘Meditation’ and ‘Sailing Away.’ The Reston, Va., resident spends weekends doing yoga or at Virginia Beach, with her ‘radio posse’ girlfriends. Engaged to a restaurateur, she is looking for a “bohemian” wedding site and planning a Greek honeymoon.

Namerow is known as a straight-shooter, who will unabashedly put her cards on the table in a job interview. “If I get this job, I want to get you promoted so I can have your job,” she’ll say — and that’s happened at AOL. But she is supportive of those who work for her, giving them the space they need to get to the next level. “Lisa gives people free rein to be creative. It doesn’t take a lot of resources to create something here and have millions of people listening to it,” says Pete Schiecke, director of programming, AOL Radio. “She’s very hands-off and only gets involved when she needs to. She’s good with creative people and doesn’t put up barriers.”

Still, she has no illusions about the tough times Internet stations are currently facing. “When you look at royalty rate issues, it’s not a pretty picture. This is a very challenging business,” she argues. “We need to bring the rates down. If we can get past that, there is a huge future for Internet radio.”


Swedish-born Calle and Pelle Sjönell are U.S. advertising’s dynamic duo

By Eleftheria Parpis, Adweek

(Photo by Roger Hagadone)

Like the people at most offices, the creatives at the New York outpost of Bartle Bogle Hegarty are on a first-name basis. There is, however, one notable exception. Actually, make that two notable exceptions. They’re known as “The Swedes.” Not for any dramatic reason, really. It’s just that most of their co-workers can’t pronounce their names.

Which is ironic, because Calle and Pelle Sjönell have been making a serious name for themselves in the advertising world. In the three years since emigrating from Stockholm, the brothers have become known for their hybrid creative skills that combine traditional brand building with online and event-creating guerrilla initiatives.

Pelle (36) and Calle (37) share an office conspicuously absent of desks (some couches do just as well, apparently) and have perfected a kind of creative symbiosis that’s as unusual as it is effective. “Pelle is much more oriented towards big broad ideas and Calle tends to be more oriented towards ideas in the interactive space,” says Kevin Roddy, executive creative director at BBH, New York, who hired the pair two years ago as creative directors. “They are both evolving differently-but they are evolving as a team that is unstoppable.”

Growing up in Stockholm’s Lidingo suburbs, the brothers didn’t originally think they’d end up having careers together. Though Pelle went to study at the Berghs School of Communications, Calle was drawn to computer games (as in programming; he had no interest in playing them). After graduating from the University of Stockholm’s interactive program, Calle co-founded interactive shop Moonwalk (which later became Starring) in 1994. Only after both brothers had won awards in their respective disciplines did they realize it might make sense to team up — and come to the U.S. “We never thought we were doing the same thing,” says Pelle. But when they put their work together, adds Calle, “We saw there were a lot of similarities, things to make advertising more tangible and tactical. We knew we could cover a lot of ground.”

The brothers’ admittedly “cocky” presentation, called “The Future According to Some Swedes,” was enough to get them hired at Fallon, Minneapolis, where their work on the launch of Sci-Fi miniseries Tin Man caught the eye of BBH’s Roddy. Then came the plane tickets to New York.

Since then, the Sjönells have perfected their blend of traditional and new media, and won international recognition in the process. They created Axe’s well known “100 Girl Crises Relief,” a multimedia effort that invites men to upload their pictures and have a warehouse full of a hundred women judge whether or not they have “Girl-Approved Hair” during live Web casts.

They also launched Dig Out Your Soul, the seventh studio album from the English band Oasis. The effort — called “Dig Out Your Soul on the Streets” — was a reverse album launch developed for NYC & Co. (New York’s tourism office) and Warner Bros. The co-promotion introduced New Yorkers to the band’s new songs through the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s eclectic street musicians. Using NYC & Co’s Web site as a promotional vehicle to help consumers find the performances, the brothers invited fans to upload their own pictures and videos onto YouTube, then released an 18-minute documentary on MySpace two months later. The effort took top prize at the International Andy Awards in March.

The brothers also have what Pelle calls “such an honor” to pay back to New York City for being their land of opportunity. In a separate effort just for NYC & Co., the brothers created the new print, radio and online “Give Your BLANK” campaign, which encourages New Yorkers to volunteer doing whatever they’re good at.

“They had me in one sentence,” says Jane Reiss, evp/CMO of NYC & Co., recalling the brothers’ pitch for the Oasis blitz. “A big part of what they do is that they don’t let things like the parameters of a limited budget or timeline hold them back when they want to do something.”

Going forward, it’s clear that “The Swedes” will be doing much more — thanks to their decision to leave home and work as a pair. “It’s kind of like being drafted into the NFL,” says Pelle of the move to the American ad world. “We knew there was something bigger out there.”


By Todd Wasserman, Brandweek

(Photo by Matt Teuten)

How former club kid Antonio Bertone grew up to be one hell of a CMO

In the ’90s, the athletic footwear market mimicked the music and movie industries at the time — that is, the focus was on blockbusters: big stars, big retail accounts and big names. But outside that mainstream scene, an alternative arose among independent shoe stores, which weren’t interested in the latest NBA tie-in, but got excited about design the way some moviegoers got jazzed about dialogue or music fans flocked to bands they’d never hear on their local FM station.

So, for Antonio Bertone, son of Italian immigrants and a scruffy Boston kid who was promoting hardcore punk concerts at age 15, making the jump from music to footwear wasn’t really a big deal.

Bertone came to Puma at 21 after he had already owned and sold a record store, sold countless pairs of shoes and consulted for Converse. (The brand didn’t offer Bertone a full-time job because he wasn’t corporate enough, Bertone says.)

Bertone never went to college or got an MBA in marketing, but he tapped his ability to pack a club with hardcore fans to turn the same kids on to Puma’s latest shoe. “What I ended up having an affinity for was, ‘How do you get someone to come to your event or come celebrate something or come share in something you’re promoting or putting on?'” he says.

Over time, Bertone, now 36, has been a driving force in expanding Puma’s U.S. niche beyond soccer and into lifestyle, fashion and now, believe it or not, sailing. “Most athletic brands are focused on staying true to their roots and straying off that only just so far,” says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group. “Puma recognized the opportunity to be able to take the fashion side of sports and drive it further. For Puma it has become more about style than function.” As a result, Cohen said, Puma has come back from the dead and introduced other athletic brands to the idea that fashion and color can — and should — be part of the mix. Of course, those brands (namely Nike and Adidas) have co-opted Puma’s innovation for their own ends. But that only proves that Puma was the lead cat.

When Bertone arrived at Puma in 1994, the brand was completely different, for multiple reasons. It was a licensee of the German Puma AG, not the full-fledged subsidiary it would later become. Financially, Puma was a mess; it lost $32 million on sales of $190 million in 1993. That changed, thanks in part to then-30-year-old CEO Jochen Zeitz, who joined the company just as the Beastie Boys began sporting Puma Clyde sneakers prompting an out-of-left-field demand for the shoes. Zeitz, the fourth corner-office chief in as many years, cannily ordered the company to produce more Clydes. Zeitz didn’t directly hire Bertone, but, after realizing Bertone had done an effective job in penetrating the indie shoe stores, promoted him to global director of brand management in 1996. (Bertone became CMO two years ago.)

The Clyde phenomenon could have been a one-off. A similar thing happened around the same time with Hush Puppies (which was chronicled in Malcolm Gladwell’s 2000 classic The Tipping Point), but Hush Puppies wasn’t able to use it to fuel a full-scale comeback. Bertone, however, realized that to keep the momentum going, Puma had to come up with newer and better models aimed at runners and skateboarders. Again, the stars had aligned for Bertone: Just as the skateboarding shoe craze was kicking off, Bertone (a passionate skateboarder) found himself marketing a suddenly-hot brand. But Puma kept expanding from there as well. In 1998, the brand made its first overture into fashion via a collaboration with Jil Sander. After that, Puma worked with a variety of fashion icons, including supermodel Christy Turlington and Yasuhiro Mihara.

Puma’s currency-adjusted sales in the U.S. rose 6.6 percent in 2008, a challenging year for any apparel manufacturer. Matt Powell, a member of Princeton Retail Analysts in Princeton, N.J., attributes the gains to Puma’s fashion-oriented positioning. “They are in a real sweet spot right now because the market has really turned away from sports specificity to fashion,” he says.

Under Bertone, Puma is continuing to expand into similarly surprising areas, most notably Formula 1 auto racing and sailing. The latter may seem about as far from hardcore punk as champagne is from Red Bull, but Bertone also is a sports enthusiast with a large collection of bicycles who tried to open his first bike store at the ripe old age of 8. For him, playing with boats is fun. So is his job. He says if it wasn’t, he’d be long gone.

“It’s never about being comfortable,” Bertone says. “I still live for the sound of a cash register.”