Women to Watch 2010

Women to Watch: Janet Balis

Exec VP-Media Sales and Marketing, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- You hear about ideas a lot when you talk with Janet Balis or the people who've worked with her.

Ms. Balis joined Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia as exec VP-media sales and marketing last August, and it took only a few weeks on the job for her to bring forth the idea for "Help Me, Martha," an unscripted series to be produced by Mark Burnett. The idea originated in conversations she started internally soon after her arrival and the show will feature Martha Stewart and others helping people with challenges such as kitchen renovation or planning a wedding. "The concept was built from the ground up to facilitate branded entertainment in the context of the show but at the same time to enhance the experience for the consumer," Ms. Balis said.

Ms. Balis has been building programs for marketers for years, going back to her time at AOL, where then-president Mike Kelly, now president-CEO at the Weather Channel, hired Ms. Balis in 2004 to help the company attract more brand advertisers.

At the time AOL was particularly eager to attract more brand advertising. "We built a new unit called client solutions that Janet was responsible for," Mr. Kelly said. "She built it into a real idea factory."

When AOL hosted live streams of Live Aid concerts in eight countries, Ms. Balis put together an "incredible set of assets" for advertisers in roughly one week's time, Mr. Kelly said. "And then we just did big program after big program," he said. "She was outstanding in creating large-scale programs that could have multiple sponsors."

When Ms. Balis arrived, AOL was doing business with just half of Advertising Age's 100 Leading Advertisers, Mr. Kelly recalled. "When Janet left we were doing business with 95 of them, and the other five didn't advertise on the internet," he said.

Now as she approaches the one-year mark in her post at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, a company with a host of platforms to offer advertisers, Ms. Balis is careful to talk about ideas before those platforms.

"The first thing advertisers are looking for is objectivity, about who their target consumer is, how best to reach them and how to engage them in a dialogue," Ms. Balis said. "And then they're looking for a very purely objective perspective on what media will best deliver on their objective. That challenges media organizations, which are traditionally organized around P&L structures that are organized around brands, media or both."

"We're idea-centric and platform-agnostic," Ms. Balis said. "It's not for me as a media company to dictate a client's media mix. What should guide the media mix is the idea itself to target consumers."

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