"Why shouldn't we take advantage of the fact that people are instant messaging?" says Suzanne Kolb, the 35-year-old exec VP-marketing at The WB. "What is the daily life of our target audience and how can you insert yourself into that, instead of just being one more message?" she asks.
Ms. Kolb answered that question late this summer with an intriguing initiative that saw the new fall series "Jack & Bobby," preview in its entirety through a Webcast on Time Warner sibling America Online, two weeks before its debut on The WB. The network hoped the move will create a buzz and a flurry of IM discussions about the show, she says. The video stream was viewed 700,000 times. The show's premiere landed it at No. 1 in its time period among women 12-34, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Such initiatives keep the network's marketing mix from lapsing into the ordinary.
"My job is to figure out any way we can market our shows, whether it's [learning from] package-goods [marketing] or TV. We are forging more true alliances that will achieve our objectives and try to do different things."
The WB again teamed with PepsiCo in March to promote the second season of live music series, "Pepsi Smash," by going on the road and holding mini-concerts across the country. "It's important not to be too L.A. or too New York," Ms. Kolb says of its attempts to reach ordinary kids, not just urban hipsters. "It's really easy to fall into that trap."
Commenting on the relationship with Pepsi, Ms. Kolb says the two were perfect partners given that they both have a clear idea of the brand. "They have a brand image that never gets stale," she says.
While some marketers shy away from risk. Ms. Kolb appears to embrace it. The network's tie-up with retailer Kmart Corp. had its critics, admits Ms. Kolb, who was told by industry skeptics the two brands were not a good match.
The network agreed to have its stars featured in marketing promotions, estimated to be worth around $35 million, for the retailer's new youth clothing line. The deal has helped gain huge awareness for both the clothes and the shows in the last few weeks.
The ads, created by Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide, ran on TV and in print last summer. "They showed us sample creative and in our minds it was an educated risk," says Ms. Kolb. It's too early to know if the gamble will keep audiences hooked, though it fulfilled Ms. Kolb's aim of doing something a little novel. "It will be nice if it becomes an annual tradition for [Kmart]," she says.
Ms. Kolb reports to two co-presidents of marketing at The WB, Lewis Goldstein and Bob Bibb. "I cannot think of anyone who has a better understanding of the broadcast marketing landscape than Suzanne," says Mr. Goldstein. "Her tireless work ethic and strategic instincts have been an invaluable asset to all of us here."