TITLE: Executive Vice President of Marketing
COMPANY: AMC and SundanceTV
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Started in TV at Children’s Television Workshop; held senior posts at Nickelodeon, including VP of marketing and programming for Nickelodeon International; served as senior VP, creative services at Rainbow Media Holdings (now AMC Networks).
QUOTABLE: “We feel very privileged to work on the shows that we’re working on, but these shows set a very high bar for us. We really want our marketing materials to be as distinctive as the shows themselves.”
The TV shows that Linda Schupack markets for AMC have not exactly been easy sells, at least at the start. The eclectic programming has chronicled internal drama at a 1960s ad agency, a desperate teacher’s transformation into a vicious drug lord and a zombie apocalypse.
But Schupack, executive vice president of marketing for AMC and SundanceTV, said that challenges like finding ways to promote Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead are “the nature of the beast” of her job.
“I am never bored,” she said.
There’s little doubt Schupack’s marketing savvy helped make those three AMC original dramas and other shows, such as Better Call Saul, major successes with both critics and audiences. In fact, through her work Schupack has helped herald what some journalists and executives claim is a new Golden Age of Television, marked by compelling, literate writing and complex, character-driven storytelling.
Schupack has played a critical role in AMC’s transformation from a commercial-free classic movie channel to an ad-supported leader in original programming, said Charlie Collier, president of AMC, SundanceTV and AMC Studios, all part of AMC Networks.
“Linda has spearheaded the development of iconic consumer marketing campaigns that have helped AMC achieve all-time highs, as well as securing AMC’s spot in the lexicon of pop culture,” Collier said. “Her work impacts daily conversation and has helped AMC make television history.”
Collier cited The Walking Dead for breaking ratings benchmarks not only for basic cable but for all of TV, and AMC is the only cable network ever to win the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series four years in a row for Mad Men.
Writer-producer Vince Gilligan, the creator and showrunner of Breaking Bad, gives Schupack a “great deal of credit for the success” of that dark drama.
“She worked her butt off to make people excited about a middle-aged drug dealer who drove a puke-green Pontiac Aztek,” he said. “If that’s not the sales job of the century, I don’t know what is!”
In her current role, Schupack is responsible for the management and implementation of brand identities; consumer, trade and digital marketing activities: and social media for AMC and SundanceTV.
She has been running marketing at AMC since 2005 and was promoted to executive vice president in 2012, assuming responsibility for marketing SundanceTV in 2015.
Schupack, who was an English major at Yale University, said that her love of books and writing dovetails nicely with her career at AMC.
“From my perspective, a lot of our shows are like literature,” she said.
Schupack entered the TV industry via her first job, which was at the Children’s Television Workshop. She moved on and held several senior positions at Nickelodeon, including vice president of marketing and programming for Nickelodeon International.
Schupack later came to AMC’s parent, then called Rainbow Media Holdings LLC, for four years as senior vice president of creative services, working on the evolution of the AMC, IFC and WE tv brands.
She said she “gravitated” toward marketing at Nickelodeon because of her fascination with consumer motivation, returning to Yale to get a master’s in business administration.
“Yale gave me a great framework for analysis and I think it is that way of thinking — being a bridge between creative and the business — that is really foundational to my job,” she said.
AMC’s and Schupack’s approach has been to work closely with show writers and producers to carefully craft the marketing for a TV series, whether for a program’s debut or its returning seasons.
“What is so singular about our shows is our creators’ vision, and we want to understand it as deeply as we can,” she said. “Our challenge is to translate or to execute against that; to develop a plan or creative materials that connect that show to an audience; and to do it in such a way that resonates with that audience, that is relevant and that is provocative to that audience.”
Gilligan, who is also co-showrunner for Better Call Saul, lauded Schupack for taking this collaborative approach, one he said worked well for launching Breaking Bad.
“Our biggest fear was that potential viewers might assume we were glorifying meth and meth dealers,” he said. “That would have been a disaster for us. Therefore, Linda and her team had quite a needle to thread. They had to create a nuanced campaign which spoke to the quality of the show’s storytelling and hinted at its quirky, leavening humor — but which also made clear that its heart was in the right place, so to speak.”
This type of process at AMC, teaming up with showrunners on marketing, started with Mad Men and its creator, Matt Weiner, with conversations about the themes of that acclaimed drama, according to Schupack.
Gilligan said that in his experience, it is unusual for a network to work so closely with a showrunner on a program’s promotion.
“On most other movies and TV series I’ve had a hand in, I’ve never even met the folks in the marketing department,” he said. “Linda and AMC do things differently, to their everlasting credit.”
Schupack carefully devised tactics and strategies to salute the creators of Mad Men and Breaking Bad as those shows came to their end, according to Collier.
“Thanks to Linda and her teams, literally and figuratively, each of these programs ended up in the Smithsonian,” Collier said. “That is how big-thinking, how thoughtful and how effective Linda Schupack is: Archie Bunker’s chair; Dorothy’s ruby red slippers; Don Draper’s fedora; Heisenberg’s yellow Hazmat suit; Schupack’s genius.”