HRTS Member Profile: Lisa Gregorian
Lisa Gregorian is Chief Marketing Officer for the Warner Brothers Television Group. I recently had a chance to interview Lisa to discuss Comic Con, Ashton Kutcher and TWO AND A HALF MEN.
Q: Can you tell us about your background and what made you want to work in entertainment? How did you first get involved with HRTS?
-I’ve always wanted to work in entertainment. When I was young, my mother had several friends that were in the business, and my grandparents were very close with the heads of the Yiddish theater in New York. Growing up around all these people made me interested in theater. In fact even as I entered college I thought I was going to work in the theater.
At 16, I went to college and majored in Theater Management. After graduation, at 20 years old, I tried to get into an executive training program at one of the major entertainment companies. There was a formal training program at many companies in those days, but unfortunately you had to be at least 21 years old to be considered. I was at Emerson College and they said “why don’t you stay and get a Masters and we’ll give you a full fellowship?”
I stayed at Emerson, working in the bookstore while obtaining a Masters in Media Management. During the process of developing my thesis I became interested in television programming and thought that would be my career path. While on interviews I met with Jeff Schlesinger at Lorimar Telepictures and the rest is history.
The original offices of Lorimar Telepictures were in the One Dag Hammarskjold building in New York. After the Warner Bros. merger I was transferred out to LA, to what are now the Sony studios in Culver City (they used to be MGM and then Lorimar) and finally we moved here to Burbank.
I remember it vividly, my first involvement with HRTS was the Network Presidents luncheon and it’s still one of my favorites. I loved it, and continued to attend each year waiting for the best question - “what’s the one show not on your network that you wish was on your network?” and of course everyone waits for that. They used to leave that to the last question, since it was the one everyone was waiting for.
Q: How do you build the brand of a show?
-we work very closely with our network partners and have very different responsibilities depending on the television group we are serving – we have network and cable shows, syndication, some off-net and some first-run and we’re in the animation business with CARTOON NETWORK. Our group has different responsibilities in launching each one of those types of shows and different roles during the lifecycles of each show. If we’re looking at first-run, marketing is responsible for soup-to-nuts and we have an incredible domestic marketing team, both at Telepictures and Warner Brothers, and the beauty of what we do is that we’re a centralized marketing services group, so we can tap into all of the expertise of a centralized team while calling on the division specialists as clients - the centralized team says “we service you, we’re here for you”.
Q: What is the brand of TWO AND A HALF MEN?
-there are a lot of iterations when it comes to brand since it is often influenced by the marketing strategy. When it’s running on cable, syndication, CBS or on any of the multiple broadcasters from around the world, it might take a different point of view. We’re responsible for working with all the broadcasters around the world. First, we discuss, identify and establish the attributes of the show itself. In the case of TWO AND A HALF MEN, it’s a cleverly-crafted show, it is very well-written, and most importantly, it’s funny. Next we identify the audience we are targeting and this helps us frame the branding position. For example, in syndication when that show airs five days a week, the demographic has traditionally been 10 to 15 years younger than the network median age on CBS. Our ongoing domestic campaign is based on Manly Men and we have played with different iterations of this. For CBS, the addition of Ashton is likely to impact the demographics and make it a younger show, which is a good thing and it will inform their marketing.
Depending on the broadcaster, we’ve seen very different marketing versions of the same exact show. It just really depends on the nature of the broadcaster and their audience. Our goal is to work with the broadcasters, find out what they need and then help deliver materials which resonate with their audiences. The things that remain part of that brand are that it’s well-crafted, it’s funny, it’s got visual humor, the characters are very strong, and it’s a quality comedy. Then from there, it really depends on who is broadcasting the show.
Marketing TWO AND A HALF MEN is fun. Chuck Lorre and the writers are brilliant and we’re lucky because at Warner Brothers we get to work with the best of the best talent in the business, and we get to work with the best executives in the business. There’s nobody better than Peter Roth, Jeff Schlesinger, Bruce Rosenblum, Ken Werner, these are really the guys who are at the top of their game.
Q: What are your thoughts on product integration and branded entertainment in general?
-if we’d had this conversation five years ago, I would have given you a very different answer. Today it’s part of doing business. It’s what the brands want and we’ve figured out how to make it part of the storytelling process. If anything we’re learning how to make it better, so that it’s truly organic to the storytelling process. Millennials aren’t offended by it, it’s part of their television viewing and in fact it’s more alarming to them when something’s greeked or generic instead of something real. They prefer authenticity.
Q: How do you utilize Twitter, Facebook and other social media?
-we view social media as awareness-building. We would like to see social media develop into something that has an ROI. We’re not there yet and what we’re calling it right now is that we’re developing a loyalty loop. We’re starting to understand what a loyalty loop means. Our marketing department runs the CW online for the network, we work very closely with the network and it has a very, very rabid online community that we are in 24/7 dialogue with across multiple social services. We’re really looking at how, a few years from now, social media will be monetized and how we’ll benefit from it so that it’s more than just awareness.
Q: What’s the marketing value of an event like Comic Con?
-from a television perspective, the timing of Comic Con couldn’t be better. It’s the end of July, so we’ve already had our upfronts, we know what shows are coming back, we know what new shows we have and we have enough time where the writers’ room has been activated, so that they have a good sense of where they’re taking the shows for the new season.
It’s a really fantastic, amazing fandom that exists. Most of us, if not all of us, who go to Comic Con were at Comic Con as fans before we ever went down as exhibitors. We think and act like fans. While it’s not for everyone, and we understand that, we have a tremendous love for the whole event. It’s really a highlight of the year. It’s not about red carpets, it’s not about stanchions, it’s really about having that moment where fans and talent are connecting and we’ve seen some pretty amazing things at Comic Con. There’s simply no other experience like it.
Q: How do you see the industry changing over the next few years?
-we wish we had a crystal ball! It’s easier to talk about how it’s not going to change – great storytelling and great shows will always find an audience. If you make a great show, you can find people who appreciate that great show and we see us maintaining great quality, great programming and working with the best product. Technology is impacting the way we work, the way we in marketing communicate with the consumers, but it’s not impacting the change in storytelling from that weekly creating of episodic programming.
People talk about how technology has completely changed things but producing FRINGE, producing TWO AND A HALF MEN, producing PRETTY LITTLE LIARS, that weekly episodic production is not necessarily impacted by social media or consumer technology. The only layer that’s being added is this technology layer that is enabling and empowering viewers to watch it in different ways, to talk about it, to communicate quickly about it, it’s doing a lot of things but it’s not changing what we do, the storytelling part of the weekly episodic production. Peter Roth has been so amazingly, laser-like focused on working with talent to create great shows and so as marketing executives it’s not even our challenge, it’s our honor to be able to work on those shows. It sounds hokey but it’s what makes us love what we do. We love television, it’s not like we’re all hoping we can do something else – every day when I wake up and I’m driving to work I’m driving to my dream job in my dream industry and that’s my blessing.