He Builds “Character”

Chris McCumber became USA Network's senior VP of marketing and brand strategy in November 2004, but it didn't take long for him to put his stamp on the network's marketing direction. By June 2005, he had unveiled USA's first comprehensive multiplatform branding campaign in its 27-year history, the award-winning “Characters Welcome” effort.

“For us, 'Characters Welcome' isn't a tagline. It's our call to action. It's our guiding light,” he says. “With USA, the brand is about people. It's about unique, different, interesting characters. It's a very human network.”

In March, McCumber unveiled the second phase of the branding effort: the “Show Us Your Character” multi-tiered campaign. In conjunction with the launch of its social-networking ShowUsYourCharacter.com site, USA ran a national contest to find the nation's most unique character.

The much honored McCumber started in 1990 as an associate producer for MTV Networks and then went on to join the on-air–promotion team that launched Comedy Central. He has kept moving up. Now he oversees all expressions of the USA brand, from consumer marketing and media planning to network packaging and interstitial programming. As a member of the NBC Universal marketing council, he spearheads extensions of the USA brand across all NBC U platforms.

Quick to give credit to his team of co-workers, he is excited about new multiple platforms that give him a “slam-dunk” opportunity to connect with viewers and extend the USA brand. “This summer is our biggest digital initiative for our original programming in the history of the network,” he says. “For every one of our original programs—Monk, 4400, Dead Zone and Psych, our newest show—we're creating places where our viewers can live with the characters more than just the hour a week they spend with them.”

As USA's senior VP of on-air promotion, the position he had held since January 2001, McCumber supervised the TV campaigns for the launches of Monk, The 4400 and Dead Zone. Now he's also in charge of USA's hugely successful WWE programming.

He says that, through compatible programming, “whether it exists at 11:00 right after WWE or it's an action movie starring one of the WWE superstars, we are looking at different ways to take that audience—which is 5 million-6 million young men every Monday night—and migrate them to another time that night or to another daypart.”