TITLE: Executive VP, Marketing, Oxygen and Bravo Media
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Learned the trade at ad agencies including Bozell Worldwide, where she collaborated on the Dairy Management Milk Board’s long-running “milk mustache” campaign. Was director of consumer marketing for Lifetime before joining Bravo in 2006.
QUOTE: “When you work in collaboration and everybody’s a team, you always get a great result. We really don’t care who the ideas come from, we just want great ideas.”
— Ellen Stone
Over the past year, Ellen Stone has moved from the Multichannel News Woman to Watch list to a Wonder Woman honoree. For the previous accolade, Stone, executive vice president of marketing for Oxygen and Bravo Media, had just helped Oxygen launch its 2014 effort to bring a fresh, new look to the brand without losing its core fan base.
What put her on top this year?
“They watched me,” Stone said with a laugh. “The Oxygen rebranding has really settled in, and I think Bravo continues to create its own way in a very crowded television space. It’s such a strong brand and the marketing is a big part of it. So I have two amazing brands that have enabled me to do some great stuff in the cable universe. And I have to tell you, [the honor] is pretty exciting.”
Stone has brought a lot of excitement to Oxygen in the past year. She led the launch of the network’s new series, The Prancing Elites Project, which debuted in the spring. The series premiere of the docuseries about a troupe of black, gay, male dancers in Mobile, Ala., broke records, giving Oxygen its highest-rated series premiere among all key demos since its rebrand. Its sophomore season started Jan. 19.
Stone and her team also championed the second-season launch of hit docuseries Sisterhood of Hip Hop, securing a partnership with entertainment news site Bossip for a prelinear premiere — the first partnership of its kind, giving the channel its distinction of being the youngest-skewing women’s network in primetime.
BETTER LIVING THROUGH MARKETING
Stone was also the driving force behind the success of Bravo’s first scripted series, Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce. For its December 2014 premiere, Stone and her team executed a series of traditional and non-traditional initiatives timed to launch, included a much-talked-about ad campaign featuring lead actress Lisa Edelstein — seen holding up her ring finger without a wedding ring, touting the slogan, “Go Find Yourself” — banned by New York and Los Angeles transit authorities for being inappropriate.
Promotions for Girlfriends’ Guide also included a scorned-lover’s car stunt — with luxury cars battered and paraded around Manhattan — and shirtless men strutting around Los Angeles on Black Friday, donning positive affirmations and promoting Bravo’s partnership with the app Manservant.
“I have to say that’s one of my favorite campaigns of anything I’ve done, even when the MTA wouldn’t post our creative because they found it to be too offensive,” Stone said from her New York City office. “A lot of people had an issue with that, which gave us a lot more play and a lot more buzz.”
Being buzzy, she said, is exactly what Bravo’s advertising is about. “We always were ones that created new platforms, from the docudrama with the Housewives to the competition realities with Project Runway and Top Chef. We’re about creating content that’s innovative and talk-worthy, which applies to both the actual shows but also the marketing.”
ROLLING ON THE POTOMAC
For Bravo’s just-launched Real Housewives of Potomac, Stone “decided to take a very ironic, very funny angle with the promos that are along the lines of ‘Where’s Potomac?’ ” Frances Berwick, president, lifestyle networks for NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, said of the viral campaign Stone launched to encourage viewers check out the new show and the new Maryland locale that few know about.
“And then they find out that it is the richest town per capita in the entire nation,” Berwick added. “But it’s sort of like taking that angle and twisting it and pushing out these great trailers on Facebook and every other platform. Her approach is always fun and very accessible. I think that’s what warms people to her and, frankly, I think that’s helped us get some of the partnerships we have. She has an intense expertise in her area, but people want to spend time with her and want to work with her.”
Jason Klarman, the former executive vice president of marketing and digital at Bravo, brought Stone into the company in 2006 to be vice president of consumer marketing.
“Ellen has a great facility for being creative and strategic and she combines both of those and just executes everything flawlessly,” said Klarman, now chief marketing officer at Fullscreen. “She is a great combination of being always curious while at the same time a very high-level thinker. She’s always looking for the next best thing, she’s open to new ideas and she is a really brilliant translator of complex ideas into very simple messages.”
Stone’s love affair with marketing began early. As a kid, she was watching Super Bowl commercials before it was cool, and analyzed promotional campaigns on television and in magazines. By the time she got to high school and college, she was actively looking for sales jobs. “The idea of behavior and fun product was phenomenal to me,” she said.
Still, after getting her bachelor’s in marketing from Lehigh University School of Business (she also later completed the CTAM Cable Executive Management program at Harvard Business School), Stone was stumped as to what do next.
“I was always someone who had a pretty focused path,” she said, “but in terms of the type of marketing, I was never automatic to television. I literally had no idea what to do. As a matter of fact, my father looked at me at one point and said, ‘You have to get an interview or I’m going to kick you out of the house.’ That’s how I got my first job.”
A headhunter turned her on to a media buying agency. “I got the job and started working there and it was kind of a love that I never got tired of and just kept going,” she said.