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Linda Schupack: Icon Creator

5/21/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

Six years ago, AMC’s tagline was “TV for
Movie People,” and it was a programmer airing theatricals.
Today, the basic-cable network has won a bushel of Emmy
Awards for its original dramas and it has a new motto, “Story
Matters Here.” Linda Schupack’s marketing efforts helped
lead that successful, dramatic transformation.

As AMC’s executive vice president of marketing, Schupack
is part of a team that has spearheaded one of the most remarkable
rebrandings of an entertainment network, whose original
programming has struck a chord with TV critics and in
the broader pop culture.

Schupack’s initiatives to promote AMC’s provocative, off -
beat and wildly varied scripted dramas — from Mad Men to
Breaking Bad to The Walking Dead — have created buzz and
helped reposition the network as one that is “creating premium
television on basic cable,” according to AMC president and
general manager Charlie Collier.

EMMY HISTORY

Mad Men, for example, became the first basic cable show to
win an Emmy for best dramatic series. It’s taken that honor
four years in a row.

Matt Weiner, the creator and executor producer of Mad Men,
offered high praise for Schupack.

“Working with Linda Schupack is like encountering two
worlds that should never go together,” Weiner said. “She’s cautious,
but bold. Thorough, but impulsive. Encouraging, but
critical. When I get off the phone with her at the beginning of
every season, I smile as I realize that the universe has brought
together the souls of Jean-Paul Sartre and P.T. Barnum into one
incredible person.”

Schupack, who has both an undergraduate degree and MBA
from Yale University, this year was promoted to her current position,
where she is responsible for the strategic oversight, management
and implementation of AMC’s consumer and trade
campaigns, including its ad campaigns.

Prior to that, she was AMC’s senior vice president of marketing,
joining the network in 2005 from its parent AMC Networks,
where she was senior vice president of creative services.
Schupack started her career in cable at Nickelodeon.

Collier credited Schupack with heralding AMC’s transformation
from the most widely distributed movie network “to
one that now is the most Emmy Award-winning basic-cable
network,” a channel that balances “some of the most enduring
originals on television, and a movie library that’s second
to done.”

Said Collier: “Linda’s translation of that momentum
through imagery, through campaigns, through her work onair
and obviously online and on the ground has just been second
to none. She’s done a tremendous job making sure people
know what AMC stands for.”

Schupack modestly said that she and her team have “been
very privileged to work on some extraordinary” TV series with
their creators. “In our marketing department, we have always
strived to make our marketing materials as distinctive as the
shows themselves,” she said.

Schupack works closely with the “show-runners,” people
such as Weiner who run the day-to-day operations of a series,
to develop marketing campaigns that accurately represent a
show like Mad Men’s or Breaking Bad’s themes for their new
seasons — and draw viewers in.

“It is very important to us, the relationship that we have
with the show-runners,” she said. “At the beginning of every
show we are talking to the show-runners to understand what
the larger themes they’re going to be addressing in that season
are, or if there might be to them an iconic image that represents
the show.”

For example, Mad Men’s signature image is a silhouette of
presumably the show’s lead character, Don Draper, sitting with
his arm outstretched, holding a cigarette. It comes from the
end of the series’ opening credits.

“That [image] had a hold on people, or that connected
with people, precisely because of the enigmatic quality
of it,” Schupack said. “It felt sophisticated. It felt different.
It had the clean lines maybe of ’60s modernism, but it felt
incredibly contemporary. And that was how we wanted
to intrigue people to get them into the show.”

Like Weiner, Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad
whose lead actor, Bryan Cranston, has won an Emmy three
years in a row — also lavished praise on Schupack. “Working
with Linda is a pleasure,” Gilligan said. “She’s always thinking
outside the box and finding smart and unexpected ways to
promote our show, and her enthusiasm and energy know no
bounds. Thanks to Linda’s hard work and creativity, Breaking
Bad
’s fan base grows with every passing season.”

Schupack is proud that AMC has been able to piggyback on
the pop-culture appeal of a show such as Mad Men. Few would
have predicted that the show, set in a Madison Avenue ad agency
in the 1960s, would start a retro fashion craze, with Banana
Republic launching a line based on the wardrobe in the series.

Schupack has attended the Emmy Awards ceremony in Los
Angeles several times now.

“I’m still incredibly wide-eyed,” Schupack said. “It’s the Emmys
and here you are. You know the people who are up there.
I feel star-struck in the best sense of the word. It’s fantastic.”

GLUT OF QUALITY TV

At the Governors Ball after the ceremony, AMC has several
tables for network executives, show-runners and talent from
shows such as Mad Men and Breaking Bad.

“And there is nothing better than giving these people a huge
hug after they’ve won,” she said.

Asked if the hugs include Mad Men heartthrob Jon Hamm,
Schupack said, “Oh sure, and Matthew Weiner.”

Going forward, AMC and cable have their advantages and
challenges, according to Schupack.

“From a marketing perspective, I think we’re all very lucky
in cable because in so many ways this is another Golden Age
in television, and there is so much great drama and great comedy
out there,” she said.

“But that means there’s that much more competition,” she
continued. “So from a marketing perspective, we have to continue
to innovate and continue to come up with distinctive
ways to cut through the clutter.”

October