In Depth

Remaining Open to Experimentation

E!/Style’s Kolb Conquers Platforms

Suzanne Kolb, chief marketing officer for E! Entertainment TV and Style Network and general manager for E! Online, has been selected to receive one of four Marketing Maverick Awards when TelevisionWeek and Promax/BDA join forces Tuesday to present the inaugural awards as part of Promax/BDA 2008 in New York.

Representing two networks, Ms. Kolb faced unique marketing challenges during the past year. She made strides across multiple platforms. “Unless you’re considering being on all platforms, you’re really narrowing the growth potential of your brand and reducing the number of ways that a fan can adore your brand,” she said. “For us, with both E! and Style, there are so many opportunities to be on another platform, and we’re also advantaged by the fact that the kind of programming we do works in just about every way.”

Under Ms. Kolb’s supervision, 2007 was a record-breaking year for E! and Style, with both networks delivering their most-watched years ever. “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and “Snoop Dogg’s Father Hood” were breakout hits. At the same time, the network’s core franchises—“E! News,” “The Daily 10” and “The Soup”—saw major spikes in viewership.

“There were a couple of campaigns that I was particularly proud of,” said Ms. Kolb. “There were a couple of show launches that I feel really good about, ‘Snoop Dogg’s Father Hood’ being one of them. The relaunch of E! Online was big. It was a bit of a risk for a lot of us, to shift the format of that whole site. There’s been a lot of work here at the network in terms of continuing to deliver on this notion of being the leading news and information source globally.”

In the current market, Ms. Kolb has found that experimentation is essential. “In the last couple of years, we’ve approached it with a little bit of a play-and-learn mentality. If there are a couple of different ways to go on different platforms, we want to try them,” she said. “There’s nobody that can really tell you what’s working or not working. There are so many nuances about why something works that I think we’ve found that experimentation was the only way to learn.”

On E! what has worked since the start is the network’s commitment to news. “‘E! News Now’ has become a franchise—a multiplatform franchise at this point. That has absolutely worked,” said Ms. Kolb.

“From a Style perspective, the things that have worked really well for us are when we let the women who watch Style be an active participant in how we present Style online. Things like using our local efforts like the Style Beauty Bus. The ability to bring real people into the Style brand has been a real success for us,” she added.

On the other hand, launching new shows on E! Online has been less successful. “We tried a few things that were more straight comedy franchises and they didn’t have a direct connection to entertainment or Hollywood or celebrity in some way,” said Ms. Kolb. “That didn’t work as well for us. We thought it was more of a risk. Dedicated content that’s celebrity-based on our Web form fits the E! brand much better.”

In addition to going to Promax/BDA 2008 to accept her Maverick Award, Ms. Kolb will be taking part in a session called “TV Polygamy: When One Screen Isn’t Enough,” organized by Lori Pate. “It’s about not being loyal to any one platform, becoming more multiplatformed.” Ms. Kolb explained.

Ms. Pate hosts a panel that includes Ms. Kolb; Vince Manze, president of creative services at NBC Universal; and Peter Risafi, senior VP and executive creative director, brand marketing, Comedy Central.

Ms. Kolb is thrilled to have been chosen for a Maverick. “It’s nice to be part of the first batch of people getting the award, and it’s always nice to have someone give you a sign that you’re doing a good job,” she said. “I’m very flattered.”