Evan Shapiro knows marketing. Before being promoted to the slot of Executive Vice President and General Manager at ifc, The Independent Film Channel, Evan was head of marketing for the cable net specializing in independent film offerings, just as the name implies. That marketing savvy is leading the net to a new branding line as well as an expanding horizon.
“We’re an evolving brand,” Shapiro shares from his Manhattan office overlooking Madison Square Garden. “Our position statement is now ‘Always uncut’. We’re broadening our focus beyond film to embrace the entire independent culture.”
One such step, and a successful one at that, was the online series “Trapped In the Closet” starring musician R. Kelly. “It’s a true web hit,” Shapiro explains. “We had something like 8 million downloaded videos and 1.5 million unique visitors. It made our website its own channel for delivering content.”
Blending marketing and content is Shapiro’s mantra. “Marketing doesn’t have to get in the way of content. How content and marketing work together most effectively is what it should be about. The content lives and breathes as part of the (marketing) piece – part of the art itself.”
This marketing insight didn’t just dawn on him one day while sitting at his desk. Shapiro has lived and breathed the marketing and content creators life, beginning in college. The Philadelphia area native ran a theatre company where he produced and directed plays while also going out and selling the ads. He developed a real instinct and ‘feel’ for choosing the titles the audiences would buy tickets to attend. Days, he would go marketing for the arts and dance troupes. Nights he would direct plays. Definitely the yin and yang of marketing and content.
It was while he was Marketing Director of the New York Shakespeare Festival that the marketing DNA truly became a part of him. “We rebranded it as ‘Free Will’ and it was the most successful rebranding effort in theatre history memory,” he says of the campaign he created, no hint of ego to his voice. “Free Will worked on so many levels.”
After founding FourFront, a marketing company that handled such Broadway hits as ‘Rent’, ‘Chicago’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast’, Shapiro stopped making content for a time, yet he never lost the knowledge or desire to do so. “We diversified away from just theatre to film and TV. It gave us a bigger platform.”
He eventually sold FourFront and took the executive marketing slot at Court TV, which led to his position at ifc. “When opportunity knocks, you have to know what to do. Mom taught me when to jump at opportunity.”
“I never had a lot of money to spend,” he confesses. “But what that does is make you smarter. Forces you to be more strategic. Make one dollar sound like three dollars.”
Ed Carroll, President of Rainbow Entertainment Services brought Shapiro onboard as marketing head as an audition for the General Manager slot. Shapiro obviously passed muster and is looking at a bright future for ifc, one where content and marketing are indecipherable.
“I love being in this business, being able to direct my passion into it.” Shapiro is nothing if not a happy man.
Come back tomorrow for news and all that good Well Dunne! stuff.