Women to Watch 2009

Barbara Blangiardi

Senior VP-Creative Partnership and Innovation, NBC Universal

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- More TV ads these days look less like the hard-sell entreaties of yore that interrupted and distracted and instead seem a part of the TV programs they support. You can give some credit to NBC Universal's Barbara Blangiardi for that ongoing metamorphosis.

Barbara Blangiardi

Ms. Blangiardi, 52, has taken on an important role in a new frontier of TV advertising. Tying ads to particular shows -- even particular moments in specific episodes -- doesn't play to the strength of broadcast outlets, which are more accustomed to selling mass air time. But to drive more revenue and develop closer ties with its clients, NBC Universal, among others, has been pushing ahead with the technique.

It's tricky work, devising ads and promos that, as Ms. Blangiardi describes them, "represent a partnership between the revenue side of the company and the creative side of the company." Not only does Ms. Blangiardi have to come up with concepts that help sell product and generate awareness, she must also weave in elements that promote the programming these ads support.

Case in point: A recent promotion for TurboTax involved ads on six different NBC Universal channels and in nine different programs, including "Ghost Hunters" on Sci-Fi and "Heroes" on NBC. Not only did each ad promote TurboTax tax-preparation software, but each made reference to the program in which it appeared.

These new ad ideas come with their own challenges, particularly because the promos are tied so directly to the shows, which are -- just due to the nature of the TV business -- subject to so many outside factors. NBC helped create a contest for Sprint related to "Heroes," for instance, but had to relaunch the idea months later, after the sci-fi drama went off the air during the writers strike of 2008.

"We think we're onto a trend for the future," said Mike Pilot, NBC Universal's president-sales and marketing. He added that Ms. Blangiardi is "a creative soul with a business headset. She can speak 'brand' to the advertiser, and she can speak 'creative' and 'story arc' and 'character' and all of those things to the creative side of the house."

Before she joined NBC, Ms. Blangiardi was part of a group working to develop and launch a new cable channel, the Premier Horse Network, from 1997 to 1999. She initially worked for the company's internal marketing unit, the NBC Agency, where she was able to learn about the entertainment company's various units and personalities -- helpful preparation for her current mission, which she started in 2008.

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