Wonder Women of New York 2022: Laura Molen

Laura Molen
Laura Molen (Image credit: NBCUniversal Media LLC)

The media sales landscape is noisy. But whether it’s launching NBCUniversal’s One Platform streamlined transaction model, evolving the ways brands connect with audiences on Peacock or reorganizing her team for optimal success, Laura Molen leads by listening and collaborating.

“Really getting into the weeds, taking feedback from our customers and our teams — to me that is really critically important so we can continue to evolve,” Molen said. 

The nine-year company veteran, who has been in her current post since 2018, also helped kick-start NBCUnified, the company’s holistic, first-party identity platform that hit the field during the Super Bowl and Olympic Games. And she continues to elevate brand integrations — including binge, pod and spotlight slots — for Peacock, which snagged $500 million of NBCU’s record $7 billion 2021 upfront. 

All of these moves are the result of Molen’s meticulous attention to integrating the needs and desires of all stakeholders involved. She recently stepped up that commitment, launching feedback mechanisms including customer surveys, open forums and individual meetings with teams organized around the company’s evolving strategy.  

“Laura [has] always impressed me with her out-of-the-box thinking, positive attitude, ability to drive sales and deliver for clients,” said NBCU vice chairman Bonnie Hammer.

Driving a Ratings Rethink

Molen is putting the same collaborative spirit to work as she champions a re-examination of data and measurement at NBCU — and the industry at large. “We’re not looking at measurement as just one thing,” said Molen, who was instrumental in the establishment of the company’s Measurement Forum through which executives from NBCU, brands, agencies and organizations share learnings. 

“We’re making tremendous progress bringing alternatives into the marketplace,” she said. “It’s a lot of education. We’ve had to go in and talk agency by agency, client by client, about how we can work together to test and learn with new partners.”

Molen’s passion for inclusiveness parallels her work ethic, said Linda Yaccarino, NBCU’s chairman, global advertising and partnerships. 

“Laura completely inspires everyone around her to be more courageous,” Yaccarino said. “Her team continues to drive NBCU and specifically Peacock’s growth nationwide; she’s helped us build a new market-leading business strategy and on top of that all, she’s an advocate for women and people of color in every part of the industry.”

We’re not looking at measurement as just one thing. … We’re making tremendous progress bringing alternatives into the marketplace.”

— Laura Molen

This past year, Molen reorganized her division to best optimize the One Platform, layering additional flexibility into what others might consider an already challenging remote work landscape. 

“Whether it’s hiring working mothers who took a break to raise their families, job shares, days from home, whatever, Linda and myself have been open to these things for years,” said the mother of two and early backer of the Association of National Advertisers’ #SeeHer movement

“I’ve always been an advocate for flexibility and as a working woman, diversity and inclusion are huge things I’ve leaned into naturally,” Molen said. “There are so many women in media today, but in leadership as you climb up there’s less and less women having a seat at the table.”

Elevating Fresh Voices

To help partners tell informed, inspiring stories about women and people of color, Molen recently announced the creation of NBCU Advertising and Partnerships’ Empowerment and Inclusion Council. 

“What we were hearing was that marketers wanted purpose-led marketing. But they are also in the business of making money,” she said. “So how do we bring them opportunities and platforms that focus on things viewers care about? The council is a collaborative space of people at all levels that focuses on elevating new diverse voices.” 

Case in point: Molen partnered with maternal health company Frida Mom to help deliver its first TV commercial about the trials of breastfeeding — a spot that had been turned down by other media players. After the initial ad ran on NBC during the 2021 Golden Globe Awards, Frida Mom came in with another integration, this time with Telemundo. 

“On every initiative, in every meeting and during every deal — Laura leads with passion and fearlessness,” said Krishan Bhatia, NBCU president and chief business officer, advertising and partnerships. “She advocates for her business partners and champions her teams to be the best in the business.”

No matter the task at hand, Molen’s North Star is a constant. “What motivates me most is the people, particularly the future generations and the future of our business,” she said. “That’s what keeps me going.” ■

Cathy Applefeld Olson

Cathy Applefeld Olson is a seasoned entertainment, media and culture journalist, and producer of video content and events. Through her continuing coverage in publications including Forbes, Billboard, XLive, Cynopsis, Broadcasting+Cable and Multichannel News, Cathy reports on evolving industry trends and personalities in business, branding, talent and technology. A passionate believer in the power of culture influencers to elevate well-being, Cathy recently launched the Forbes column Hollywood & Mind, which features interviews with entertainers, sports figures, executives and others who are boosting the conversation around mental health. She also works with music and wellness community Myndstream, for which she writes the monthly State of Mynd blog.