Linda Schupack, the president of marketing for AMC Networks, will leave the company at the end of the year, she tells The Hollywood Reporter.
“20-plus years is a significant amount of time in this industry, in the media and entertainment business, and the timing just felt right,” Schupack says. “I felt so lucky, so privileged really to have participated in the evolution of AMC Networks from when I started in 2001 and it was a series of movie-based programming services, and to have help shaped the evolution of these services into really groundbreaking entertainment brands that helped shape popular culture.”
The marketing executive had a role in shaping the campaigns for all of the shows that defined AMC over the past 20 years, from The Walking Dead and Mad Men to Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.
“Anyone working in this industry knows you can have the greatest shows in the world, but it doesn’t matter if no one knows about them or cares to watch. For so many years, Linda made it her business to make sure viewers knew about our original programming and made it a point to watch,” AMC Networks executive vice chairman Josh Sapan tells THR. “It’s quite a thing to be able to splice the gene of a great television series and have it grow in the marketing that supports and promotes it, and Linda is an expert at that rare surgery.”
Schupack credits the creatives behind the shows, from Mad Men’s Matthew Weiner to Breaking Bad’s Vince Gilligan, for creating the worlds that her team’s campaigns simply explored.
“The showrunners and the shows themselves set a very high bar for us. The standard that we set for ourselves was to always be as distinctive as the show itself,” Schupack says. “We are often working in parallel with the show being produced. So we are working with the showrunners, understanding what is the animating idea, what is the animating spirit of the shows? … do they have an image in their minds eye of anything?”
The end result was often imagery that became closely associated with many of AMC’s biggest hits, from Don Draper being submerged in a room filled with water, to that image of Rick Grimes on horseback riding toward an abandoned city (“That was an image in the first episode, and we thought it was the perfect image to distill the ethos around the larger show,” Schupack says), to Walter White standing in a stark desert in his underwear.
“Working with Linda is a pleasure,” Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan tells THR. “She knows the marketing world inside and out, plus she’s smart and wonderfully collaborative. She assembled a stellar team at AMC, and I know they’ll miss her. I will, too.”
“Her marketing campaigns captured every nuance of Mad Men’s many layers and helped propel the show into the national zeitgeist as one of the most acclaimed series in television history,” added Lionsgate TV group chair Kevin Beggs.
But if those original campaigns were about introducing a show, subsequent campaigns built on them. Whether it is hiring the famed graphic designer Milton Glaser to produce art for Mad Men’s final season, or expanding the campaigns around The Walking Dead to a year-round effort, there is a need to continually evolve the creative approach to marketing.
“We are always trying to remind people in subsequent seasons what they loved about the show,” Schupack says.
“As TWD expanded and changed, we saw the world change; key art and gallery shoots gave way to a world of social media, the critical importance of Comic-Con trailers, and new opportunities for fan engagement,” says Scott M. Gimple, chief content officer of The Walking Dead Universe. “Linda was there through it all — a premiere in Madison Square Garden, a 100th episode at the Greek Theater, seeing a scrappy little show become both a universe and a piece of pop culture history.”
The marketing executive cites the growth of TWD as a textbook example of how marketing of a TV show can evolve. Even deciding to shorten the name to those three letters in its marketing efforts reflected the reality that consumers had a layer of recognition built in. “That felt new and exciting and refreshing,” she says.
“Each show and each season is a brand new opportunity, because you start with a blank page,” Schupack adds. “That creative process of having that blank page and creating something that you didn’t know was going to be there, that process is really thrilling, regardless of what it is applied to.”
Schupack leaves AMC Networks as the company undergoes substantial change of its own. Sapan stepped aside as CEO earlier this year, with former Showtime chief Matt Blank stepping in on an interim basis. COO Ed Carroll also stepped down, with CFO Christina Spade adding COO responsibilities.
As for what’s next for her, Schupack says she wants to continue playing a role in the business.
“It is such a dynamic time in this industry, new voices, new ways of telling stories, new mashups of genre, art form and media, and new ways to reach people,” she says. “I still have a great desire to figure out some way to contribute to the industry, to have an impact on pop culture.”