McGrath: The Value of a 'Creative-First Culture’

7/21/2006 8:00 PM Eastern

Winner: Grand Tam Award

MTV: Music Television has always been at the forefront of cutting-edge marketing concepts and Judy McGrath has been part of that revolution since the network was only a few months old. McGrath was looking for a change in 1981 when she was writing about fashion at Glamour magazine. She had always wanted to work for Rolling Stone, but a couple of friends convinced her to check out Warner Amex Satellite Entertainment Co., the predecessor to MTV Networks. She joined the company as a copywriter for on-air promotion. She steadily moved up the corporate ladder and now serves as chairman and CEO of MTVN. Along the way, McGrath and her team have led the industry in marketing innovations and success.

McGrath is being honored this year with the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing’s Grand TAM award, which is the organization’s highest honor. Each year, this award is bestowed on an individual who has contributed to the future of the industry through leadership, marketing and education. MTVN has more campaigns in CTAM’s Hall of Fame than any other company, according to association president and CEO Char Beales.

“Judy and MTV exemplify leadership and innovation in cable marketing. They have created a culture around marketing and serving customers. They have clearly taken the lead in this area,” she said. “That is why she is being honored this year with the Grand TAM award.”

McGrath credits her team at MTV for the company’s success.

“I started my career here in the on-air promotion department for MTV, and it remains at the heart of what I most appreciate in my professional life — a creative-first culture, with individual voices, passionately supporting a brand they fuel every day,” McGrath wrote via e-mail. “So this award is not for me at all, but for all the wonderful minds who have used their creative muscle in service to MTV Networks.”

MTVN has grown from a novel yet rebellious idea to a stable of mega brands that are recognized around the world. With McGrath at the helm, the company has expanded its presence to over 165 countries and has moved into new delivery platforms. MTV has created cultural events and attitudes that have changed the way people watch TV and listen to music. It has launched niche networks for teens, children and gay viewers.

“This company has been a talent magnet for over 25 years, and all of our success is due to those innovative, unique, creative, unusual people who come through the doors and make things happen,” McGrath wrote.

In a May 23, 2005, interview with Jack Myers, editor of and Jack Myers Media Business Report, McGrath said one of her proudest moments was when “someone accused me of being an engine of social destruction. I thought it was a great name for a band and I also realized what a compliment it was.”

McGrath’s ability to marry social responsibility with pop culture has helped spur some of the industry’s most successful marketing campaigns. Among them: “I want My MTV,” “Choose or Lose,” “Rock the Vote” and “Save the Music.”

“I am proud of our connection to the social issues of our times, and the way that gets translated onto the many screens we program and support,” McGrath wrote.