Alison Tarrant

The CW

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If you want to get your product in front of teens and tweens in a way that doesn't seem obnoxious, talk to Alison Tarrant.

The senior VP-integrated sales and marketing at the CW network has been one of the key people behind the scenes implementing innovative new commercials, including minutes-long "content wraps" and a prized integration in the buzzy rich-kids drama "Gossip Girl."

As technology allows consumers to skip past regular ads, Ms. Tarrant's facility for bringing marketers into new ad situations is a talent that ought to be more in-demand.

"While many talk about integrated marketing working for both parties or breaking molds, Alison actually makes it happen," says Suzanne Kolb, chief marketing officer for E! Entertainment and the Style Network and general manager of E! Online, who worked with Ms. Tarrant at the WB network. "She does it by being an exceptional strategic thinker and an innovative creative force. What's more, she makes it look easy."

Some people might think Ms. Tarrant is playing with fire as she and the CW experiment with new ad formats. But a client that negotiates a "content wrap," which often consists of a series of longer ads or content pieces across an entire night of programming, probably stands out more in a consumer's mind than others who run normal ads in the same night. Likewise, when Verizon Wireless won a season-long integration in "Gossip Girl," it was poised to make more of an impression than its rivals, at least for the hour the program was on.

That's the model more networks are choosing to test, particularly as CBS, NBC and Fox experiment with letting a single client sponsor a single episode -- or, in Fox's case, running fewer ads throughout a new fall series -- in exchange for paying a premium.

"Our advertisers are trying to make a connection with a hard-to-reach audience," says Ms. Tarrant, 38. So playing by the rules isn't always a sure means to success. "We learn something from every deal, and we apply those learnings to what the next innovation is."

The CW faces a tough task ahead. The young viewers its programming targets are just the sort of people who are spending more time with new and emerging media. With ratings down for the year, the network will need to get back on track and is testing promotions that encourage viewers to watch TV first for new content, then move online.

While the group is notorious for avoiding anything with the merest whiff of hard sell, count on Ms. Tarrant to keep trying new ideas that can weave promotional messages into the mix, no matter whether viewers are watching the TV screen or the computer monitor.
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