By Brian Steinberg
Courteney Monroe, who has spearheaded the marketing for landmark HBO programs from "The Sopranos" to "Game of Thrones" and also supervised the launch of the premium cable outlet’s recent effort to make its programming available to subscribers with mobile devices, plans to step down from the Time Warner property at the end of the year.
In an interview, Ms. Monroe — currently HBO’s exec VP-consumer marketing and digital platforms — said she had been commuting between New York and Washington, D.C. since last summer, when her family relocated for a job her husband had taken, and had recently decided that "from a family perspective, from a personal perspective, the commute is challenging." She said she has two small children at home, but still hoped to find new employment in the Washington, D.C. vicinity after the new year.
Under Ms. Monroe’s aegis, HBO developed a reputation for innovative methods of marketing its entertainment properties. While well known for edgy, complex, often envelope-breaking series, HBO is sometimes constrained in its efforts to draw attention to them. Many broadcast outlets routinely decline to give the network national ad inventory for fear of alerting their viewers to competing shows. When HBO does get to advertise on broadcast, it’s often for "spot," or local inventory, and local broadcasters usually don’t let HBO say when exactly its show runs.
As such, the network has turned to pushing its ideas in other media, including print, out of home and digital. In 2005, for example, the network placed an ad for its ambitious drama "Rome" in Entertainment Weekly that was so complex it came with its own set of instructions: The front and back covers folded out, and the middle of the magazine included a two-page center spread devoted to the series. If readers folded the page in different ways, they could match scenes from the three ad sections to create six different configurations. In the same year, HBO ran an eight-page insert in Vanity Fair for the Western-themed "Deadwood" that offered readers profiles of the series’ major characters.
By 2008, HBO was placing samples of a dark-red beverage known as "Tru Blood" in certain retail outlets — and running print ads for the potable, too — to promote its then-embryonic vampire drama, "True Blood." The network also started up an "adverblog" called BloodCopy.com that gave out information on the show and looked as if it was an editorial product, not an ad-sales play, that was part of Gawker Media.
Ms. Monroe has been at HBO since 1998, when she joined as manager-advertising. After a series of promotions, she was named senior VP-consumer marketing in 2006, and her role at the network grew broader during that time, as she took on oversight of licensing, retail and home-entertainment marketing. Her work promoting HBO’s original series became increasingly significant as HBO relied more and more on those series to attract new subscribers.
More recently, Ms. Monroe has been responsible for the launch of HBO GO, the on-demand service that allows HBO subscribers to watch the network’s popular programming on portable devices such as Apple’s iPad.
"This experience, both personally and professionally, will be very hard to replicate," she said.