TITLE: EVP, Managing Partner, Entertainment, Horizon Media
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Coming to Horizon, Ferguson had extensive cable expertise in such roles as VP, Group Account Director, Initiative; VP, Associate Media Director, PHD.
QUOTE: “People used to say that curiosity killed the cat. But in this business, curiosity is a really important thing, as is persistence — to be a ‘nothing is impossible’ kind of person. And don’t be afraid to take risks and fail. You learn a lot in life when you fail.”
Years ago, when Katy Ferguson was just starting to climb the corporate ladder as a media planner, she was passed over for a promotion. She was the most senior person in line for the new gig, but a co-worker landed the position because of direct experience working with a certain client.
“It wasn’t soul-crushing, but I was very disappointed,” related Ferguson, who is now executive vice president and managing partner of entertainment at Horizon Media, a media planning and buying agency that manages $4.7 billion in client investments.
Shortly after that bleak moment, “another opportunity opened up that allowed me to eventually get my first job in entertainment. If I’d gotten that other position, I may not have ended up doing what I’m doing now.”
PASSIONATE FOR ENTERTAINMENT
Working on advertising accounts related to showbiz is one of the most exciting aspects of Ferguson’s job. “For me, it’s really easy to be passionate about the [entertainment accounts] in the workplace, because they’re what I’m interested about in the real world as well. It’s fun to work on campaigns for some of my favorite networks and shows.”
In the past, when she worked at the agency PHD, Ferguson was involved with HBO and Cinemax campaigns. At Initiative, she worked on the Showtime, CBS and Fuse accounts.
Her current list of clients at Horizon includes Scripps outlets HGTV and Travel Channel and brands within the A+E Networks family, including A&E, Lifetime and History.
Ferguson’s efforts helped make Bates Motel the mostwatched original drama on A&E among the 25-54 demo. Bonnie and Clyde, A+E Networks’s first simulcast event, garnered a total audience of 10 million. And History’s Hatfields and McCoys ranked as the single biggest launch in the history of cable, winning a Gold OBIE.
Her accomplishments extend well beyond that. When Ferguson started in Horizon’s New York offices about six years ago, there were only a handful of entertainment accounts. Now, there are more than 15. “I spent a lot of time over the last couple of years making sure we had the right tools and resources, and also, most importantly, talent that has allowed us to build this really great practice.”
Joe Hadari, Horizon’s senior vice president and managing director of the brand strategy group, said Ferguson’s challenge moving forward is managing work for all those clients at the same time she keeps up with the movement of the business, “whether that’s new players like Netflix, Amazon or Hulu or people moving away from linear television to other platforms.”
Another ongoing imperative is to get viewers to tune into live TV, said David Campanelli, who heads up national TV buying at Horizon as senior vice president, director of national TV. He works hand in glove with Ferguson’s strategy and planning team.
“It’s a huge challenge to not only get attention for a show, but to get people to watch in that live environment — not six, seven, eight days later when they DVR things and skip commercials that don’t get measured by Nielsen. So it’s not only capturing attention in this incredibly fragmented world, but creating enough interest to get them there for that live event,” Campanelli added.
Hadari noted that a lot of clients are focused on data, so their approach to media planning is very data-driven. “One thing that Katy’s done an amazing job with is taking all that data, all that we can learn about our audiences, and balancing that with the art of reaching an audience — the best way to drive people into our environments to consume content.”
Making her tasks more complex is the very nature of entertainment company promotions. With media clients, timelines to produce campaigns are apt to shrink, because plans for content can change very quickly, noted Sheri Roder, chief of WHY at Horizon, who gives Ferguson’s team insights into the behavior of particular audiences.
Colleagues said Ferguson’s personality and communications style are key to her success.
“She’s serious about what she does, but she’s not always serious about herself,” Roder said. “She’s honest with clients about both the great and not-so-good news. There are moments when she isn’t afraid to say, ‘This isn’t good enough.’ They can be di_ cult conversations, but that’s how we push ahead.”
DELVES INTO DIY PROJECTS
Ferguson, who grew up in Louisiana near New Orleans, likes to spend her down time being the “entertainment junkie” that she is. But she’s also “a bit of a DIY person” around the house, gardening, making curtains and the like — when she’s not absorbed with her two small children, a 7-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old son.
Her husband, Jay Ferguson, who works for Saatchi & Saatchi, is a “true partner. He helps balance my life,” she said.
There are a lot of people that she draws inspiration from, but her parents have been the most influential. “They taught me the value of hard work, and that nothing is really impossible if you’re willing to work for it.”
Her family also instilled in her a philosophy that helped her get through the tougher times, like that moment when she was passed up for a promotion way back when. “It’s that Rolling Stones song, ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want,’ ” she said. “Sometimes what you want and what you need aren’t always aligned. You may have disappointments in your life, but there’s a reason for that. And you’ll get what you need.”