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Marketing

Brand Builder

1/30/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

DirecTV several years ago ran an ad campaign that lampooned cable,
mocking an alleged disregard for customer needs and service. Those TV
spots took place in the boardroom of fictional Cable Corp. Inc. and were
directed by satirist Christopher Guest, featuring actors from his coterie.

Marissa Freeman, now senior vice president of brand strategy and
marketing communications for Time Warner Cable, admits that she was
responsible for those commercials. At the time, Freeman was handling
DirecTV’s account for the ad agency Deutsch Inc.

“I, unfortunately, did the cable boardroom ads,” she confesses. “I did.
That was me. Me and Christopher Guest, and his whole ensemble cast.”

All is forgiven in the cable industry, because that work
was the stepping stone to Freeman’s current job at Time
Warner Cable, the nation’s No. 2 MSO, overseeing branding,
advertising and marketing.

CLEAR MANDATE

“She’s always been my Wonder Woman,” says advertising
legend Jerry Della Femina, Freeman’s mentor and former
boss. “She’s going to succeed in everything she touches.”

When Freeman, 49, joined Time Warner in 2009 from
Deutsch, her mandate was clear. She was to create a uniform
brand for the cable operator and spotlight its edge —
Internet, phone and on-demand choices — over rivals such
as DirecTV, the MSO’s No. 1 competitor in New York and
Los Angeles.

“As an industry, we have not taken credit for just how
much we mean to our customers and how much better
we are than DBS,” Freeman says. “It’s been sitting there,
waiting for us to just grab it and do it.”

A self-described “Italian Jersey girl,” Freeman has spent
more than 20 years working for ad agencies, not only
Deutsch but BBDO New York, DDB Worldwide, Della Femina
and Partners and N.W. Ayer, before moving over to
the client side via Time Warner Cable.

Her father was a real estate/insurance entrepreneur in
Clifton, N.J., and her mother pitched in on the family business,
but they also painted and wrote. That gave Freeman
her combined creative and business bent, leading her to
Madison Avenue.

“Advertising is the perfect blend of art and commerce,”
Freeman says. “So it was what I wanted to do. And I
watched Bewitched, and I knew what the ad world looked
like. It looked like fun.”

In the ad world, Freeman was considered a turnaround
specialist, the “fix-it” executive who was often put on the
accounts of clients who were dissatisfied and ready to leave
an agency. For example, when a difficult client — then-
Warnaco Group Inc. CEO Linda Wachner — was unhappy
with the work being done by Della Femina’s agency, he put
Freeman on the case. She saved the account.

“He believed in me,” Freeman says. “And so he would
just throw me into the deep end and put me in the boardrooms
with titans of industry, and say, ‘Go ahead and make
it happen.’”

Della Femina says he has hired thousands of people, but
in Freeman’s case, he knew within seconds from her body
language, smile, attitude, confidence and fearlessness that
she was a star.

“You automatically win when she’s in the room,” he says.
Her turnaround skills are what ultimately led her to
Deutsch and DirecTV, and then TWC.

GRAND CENTRAL IN BROOKLYN

Freeman credits the cable company with taking a “a flyer”
on her. She was pregnant with twins, who are now
2½ years old, when Time Warner brought her on board. Six
weeks later, she was put on bed rest. Her Brooklyn apartment
became her offi ce, and Time Warner Cable and ad
agency executives would go there for meetings.

“It was like Grand Central,” Freeman says.
With a new “Moving Technology Forward” campaign,
Freeman focused on how Time Warner Cable enhanced
customers’ lives.

“The bundle is amazing and was a great thing for cable,
and we advertised the heck out of it,” Freeman says. “But
we weren’t storytelling. We talked about what we did, but
not what we did for you.”

A recent holiday acquisition campaign was like “a
Christmas card” from Time Warner Cable, according to
Lynne Robertson, president of one of the MSO’s ad agencies,
FAME Advertising. It didn’t stress price, but rather the
joy that Time Warner could bring to a household.

“She has a very keen consumer ear … and an understanding
of passion points and motivational points,” Robertson
says. “She’s the total package.”

Freeman has been working on a new ad campaign, and
tagline, for Time Warner that will debut Feb. 5.

“It is going to be breakthrough for our category and,
hopefully, breakthrough in any category,” she says. “It’s
just a fun, exciting truthful piece of communications.”

Freeman also helps out her husband, Zeke Freeman,
with his business, Bee Raw Honey. It sells varietal honey
that’s been a favorite of Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart.
At Freeman’s request, here is its website: Beeraw.com.

“I’m an advertising person,” she says. “If I can’t get my
husband’s website in my story, I’m an absolute failure.”

MARISSA FREEMAN

Hometown: Clifton, N.J.

Age: 49

Current job: SVP, brand strategy
and marketing communications, Time
Warner Cable

First job: Media planner, Douglas
Turner Advertising, Newark, N.J.

Favorite TV shows: Mad Men,
The Good Wife.

High praise: “From the second I
saw her, I got that feeling that this is
someone I can trust. This is someone
that’s going to represent me, the
agency and everything we do well.”
— Jerry Della Femina, chairman and
CEO, Della Femina Advertising

 

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