Maryam Banikarim

SVP & Chief Marketing Officer

Location: New York, NY

"Always volunteer for the hard stuff, and surround yourself with a talented team of fearless people who are open to the idea that anything is possible."

In the corporate world, your life can change quickly when a new CEO is appointed. In 2007, I was serving as Chief Marketing Officer for Univision Communications when, a few days into his new job, our CEO informed me that the company’s annual upfront presentation to the advertising community was now my responsibility.

Not a problem, except that this event (executed at the level of a one-day Broadway show) was exactly 30 days away and I had never orchestrated anything like it before. I gathered the team, broke the news and we plowed ahead.

The current direction of the event did not align with the new CEO’s vision; he insisted that we scrap the plans and start fresh. Our process began with re-imagining both the experience and our core messaging. Brainstorms yielded an important insight that might set us apart: Our experience and research showed that Univision enjoyed an unusually high degree of connection to our viewing audience. Knowing this, we strove to find a way to let our viewers tell our story. We soon arrived at a compelling idea: the first “user-generated upfront,” featuring content created by our audiences and incorporating a panel of viewers into the previews of our new programming. Not only was our idea to use video testimonials from dedicated and loyal consumers a hit with our clients, it was also a hit with my boss and our company’s new owners. By the time it was all over, my team and I had organized and staged a user-generated production (that also included a performance by Marc Anthony) and set a new precedent for future Univision upfronts.

I was especially proud of what my team had accomplished when a leading (and widely-read) media industry critic ranked Univision as the best presentation by any network that year. When I forwarded the article to the rest of my team, I added this note: “Just imagine how great the Upfront might have been if we had been given thirty-one days to pull it off.”

The real lesson I took from this experience is this: Always volunteer for the hard stuff, and surround yourself with a talented team of fearless people who are open to the idea that anything is possible.