LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- Liz Dolan is about to make cable history. As chief marketing officer of the Oprah Winfrey Network, Ms. Dolan will oversee perhaps the last major launch of a cable network when the Discovery Communications-Harpo joint venture makes its debut on Jan. 1, 2011.
At a time when niche cable networks are fully distributed and video content continues to shift online, there are few opportunities to introduce brands into the cable-TV landscape and still find big audiences. But then again, there are few brands with a following like Oprah Winfrey's.
"This is not likely to happen again anytime soon," Ms. Dolan said. "We're really in a unique position as far as really starting something where people have such a powerful emotional connection not just to Oprah but to the whole idea of living their best lives and making important decisions for themselves."
Ms. Dolan has handled megabrands before. In the mid-1990s, she was the VP-global marketing communications at Nike, reporting to then-CEO and founder Phil Knight and leading a team that was named Ad Age's Marketer of the Year in 1996. At Nike, Ms. Dolan faced the theory-of-abundance problem that will directly affect her gig at OWN: How do you choose which products (or shows, as the case may be) to represent your brand? Nike produced as many as 10,000 products a year, and OWN will launch with a full slate of almost entirely original programming, only some of which will get dedicated marketing support. But in both cases, it all comes down to the consumer's personal connection with the brand.
"At Nike, our job was to understand, if you are a runner, what do you love about running? We really need to understand our audience and serve them when it comes to their goals for themselves," she said. And with nearly 65 million people interacting with Oprah media properties on a monthly basis -- the daily talk show, "O" magazine, Ms. Winfrey's satellite-radio channel -- Ms. Dolan has a larger-than-normal database of qualified leads to speak to.
"We have millions of viewers out there telling us every day how we can do this. It's great to have so many people tell us what the brand means to them," she said. "I've never experienced anything like this."