Makin’ it happen – Susan Arthur, director of marketing, CHUM

Fifteen years ago, the promotions department at MuchMusic was a one-woman show starring Susan Arthur. Today, she's less lonely, overseeing CHUM's bustling marketing and promo department now comprised of 15 people.

Fifteen years ago, the promotions department at MuchMusic was a one-woman show starring Susan Arthur. Today, she’s less lonely, overseeing CHUM’s bustling marketing and promo department now comprised of 15 people.

‘It doesn’t feel like the same job anymore – everything’s so different,’ she says. While she’s still responsible for helping marketers leverage Much’s cool factor, she also manages brand hook-ups for 32 other channels now, too. Not to mention overseeing all of CHUM’s own advertising, sponsored programs and marketing extensions.

Fresh from promoting her fall TV lineups, particularly on the rebranded A-Channel properties and in the three new Citytv markets, she has now shifted her attention to an exciting new initiative.

Set to begin airing in January on MuchMusic and Citytv, CHUM is turning the bi-annual Much VJ Search into a nine-episode reality TV series, with Procter & Gamble as an exclusive umbrella sponsor. ‘Anything we do to support the show will have their identification,’ explains Arthur, adding that there will be opps for other marketers to get involved on a smaller scale. CHUM decided to offer up an exclusive sponsorship offer in response to the common request Arthur hears from advertisers to really ‘own’ a CHUM property. The VJ Search is unique, so Arthur and her team brainstormed ways to make it bigger and thus more appealing to sponsors. ‘The logical next step was creating a reality show,’ she says. ‘This is the biggest thing I’ve done in my 15 years at CHUM.’

In another coup for Arthur and her team, the new fall TV ads from CHUM are effectively simple with bold, descriptive text. For example, billboards promoting new show Everybody Hates Chris read: ‘It’s like The Wonder Years – but with Chris Rock as the kid.’

This idea was born at a CHUM brainstorming session, when one person admitted to not watching one of the shows, and another described it from across the table. New shows are compared to existing shows, while returning shows are compared to last season, linking them to something familiar. ‘It’s tongue-in-cheek, and non-traditional,’ says Arthur.

Arthur’s brain is always churning up new tie-in opportunities for marketers. She knows how they think because she used to be on their side of the table, representing CPG and retail clients during her days as an account exec at McCann-Erickson and FCB Canada.

She spends a lot of time listening to what marketers want, and tries to accommodate them while maintaining integrity and credibility for her own brands. When marketers began worrying about on-air limitations, Arthur quickly created more event marketing sponsorship opps, like the MuchMusic Unleashed summer tour, a travelling road show featuring Xbox products.

Arthur also decided to send the Much VJ Search on the road, providing more hands-on sponsorship opps for brands like Chevrolet Aveo and Samsung. Some of her other notable innovations include a half-hour TV special on Much to promote the launch of Xbox’s Halo 2, and an hour-long La Senza fashion show on Citytv that has become an annual event.

Boss David Kirkwood, CHUM’s EVP of TV sales and marketing, credits Arthur with making things happen. ‘I tend to be loose – I have a concept, and she helps put objective goals to what that is and helps me define what it is I want to do,’ he says. ‘While we’re discussing it, she’s working out the logistics…. Often by the end of the conversation, she has already worked out a critical path.’

Arthur’s knack for working out logistics is what landed her at CHUM originally. She was hired to bring some of the process-heavy administrative skills that she honed on the agency side over to the notoriously laid back MuchMusic. Before Arthur, promos were thrown in for free with ad buys. The company knew there was enough demand to start charging separately for promo partnerships – but they also knew they’d have to bring in someone familiar with the ebb and flow of the CPG/retail world to implement it.

Arthur was the first person in mind for the role: She had made an impression on CHUM higher-ups when she worked with Much on promos for FCB client Pizza Hut. ‘I’d watched her in meetings and all I could think was: ‘Someday I’d like this person to work for me,” recalls Kirkwood. ‘I was impressed with her administrative abilities.’ Arthur seemed like exactly what CHUM needed. But, how she landed the position remains unclear – and an inside joke between Arthur and Kirkwood. ‘There’s a question of whether I hired her or she hired herself – she accepted a job I hadn’t offered yet. I was gobsmacked,’ Kirkwood recalls. ‘In her characteristic way, she made it happen.’

Her first project was to develop a promo for Wayne’s World and Reese’s Pieces, which wound up being a contest to win a trip to New York to go to a Rangers game with veejays Mike & Mike, and Mike Myers.

She recalls that it was an overwhelming transitioning from the rigid CPG world to the ultra laid back CHUM: ‘For the first six months I thought: Am I crazy?’

Don’t bother even thinking about poaching Arthur away from CHUM: she’s now quite content with her decision. ‘I’ve been here 15 years, and I still wake up in the morning excited about going to work,’ says Arthur. Besides, Kirkwood needs her: ‘She’s very critical to my own success.’


Favourite book:

Right now, it’s My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picout. It’s beautiful. I may start crying if I explain what it’s about.

Last ad that inspired you to make a purchase:

The Pizza Hut strip pizza ads. I knew my boys would love it.

Favourite vacation spot:

DisneyWorld. My husband and I went there even before we had kids.

Ideal retirement spot:

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I got married there.

Favourite business book:

Good to Great, by Jim Collins. It’s practical and easy to read.