Entertainment Marketers of the Year

Mike Benson & Marla Provencio

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During the 2006-07 TV season, it was particularly difficult for any broadcast network to launch new shows. But one clear hit was ABC's "Ugly Betty," which benefited from its "Grey's Anatomy" lead-in spot almost as much as it did from its unique brand identity and nontraditional approach to looks and conventional beauty. The title character alone presented a fun challenge for Mike Benson and Marla Provencio, ABC's exec VPs of marketing.
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Title set the tone for ABC promotion at unique venues such as Fashion Week, where "Betty" got a front-row seat.
Photo: Dean Hendler

"This show was just a fun, larger-than-life program, and we really wanted to show that, says Mr. Benson, 44, noting that the show's title helped set the tone for the advertising. "It was the whole idea of this really smart, self-assured woman who was in places she really shouldn't be, so the creative idea was to turn things on their ear a little bit and have her in situations where people would notice her."

Those unique locales included New York's Fashion Week in September, where a Betty doppelgänger got a front-row seat to cover the new spring lines for the show's fictional Mode magazine. Then there was the "Be Ugly '07" initiative at the end of the year, launched with Hearst's CosmoGirl and dedicated to finding inner beauty. Mr. Benson and Ms. Provencio -- or "Mike and Marla," as they're more affectionately referred to around their L.A. offices -- even used radio, an often-overlooked component of most campaigns, as a major part of introducing the show to a Hispanic audience. Given "Betty's" origins as a telenovela called "Yo Soy Betty La Fea," a pair of reggaeton and salsa songs on core Latino radio stations was one of the more successful elements of the duo's combined efforts.

"Mike and I are really true believers in making it fresh and organic to show," says Ms. Provencio, 50. In the past three of their eight years of working together, they've launched other hit ABC dramas by employing unique devices, including ad messages placed in bottles on popular beaches for "Lost" and bags filled with "dirty laundry" at various Laundromats for "Desperate Housewives." But to have another hit on their hands so soon was a pleasant surprise.

"We've had our share of successes and our share of things that weren't so successful," Mr. Benson says. "Our primary objective is to launch new shows, so if people come back after we've done our part, it's really up to the show."

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