Magazine Sep/Oct 2012 The Best of Both Worlds

01 September 2012, 12:00
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The Best of Both Worlds

It’s been 17 years since Eliz Gazarian-Semerjian, the Director of National Sales at Telemundo, started her career, having worked her way up from her start as a model and production assistant. I met this bright and energetic woman at the AIWA conference, where her effortless professionalism, personal warmth and gracious femininity made a great impression on all she met. It was only natural that while working on our Television issue, Yerevan decided to share the story of her career in one of the largest Hispanic television networks in North America.

Her origin is an interesting conversation piece in itself. Eliz is from Venezuela, but of Armenian descent. Thanks to her mother’s persistence, Eliz and her brother Haik spoke Armenian and were raised in the Armenian community in Venezuela. Their grandfather, uncles and their extended family were among the founders of the first Armenian Church in Venezuela. After immigrating to the U.S., Eliz attended college and embarked on chasing her American dream. Tall, slim and attractive, Eliz Gazarian quickly caught the attention of modeling agencies. She had the good looks required of a model, but, “standing still was not in my nature, I would always turn my head around, curious to see what was going on in the production division.” That interest led her to the first meaningful step on her career path in television. Gazarian-Semerjian started working for Telemundo news and various live productions. At the time, the company was owned by General Electric.

The most memorable encounter in her career was with the powerful and influential president of the GE, Jack Welch. “I was very nervous before the meeting,” she said, “He had a very strong handshake; I almost felt my finger bones cracking. And also – his piercing look, straight into one’s eyes. But physically, he was not tall or imposing. When Welch started talking, to my surprise, he was stuttering. He liked my Spanish accent and asked me where I was from. At the end of our conversation he said, ‘You are going to have a great future in this company,' and then he repeated, ‘a great future.’ I thought then, ‘If he could achieve so much from a humble beginning, I should aim high too,’” an affirmation which helped Eliz as she continued working through the ranks at Telemundo. She traveled a lot on business, and as fate would have it, Eliz met the love of her life on a special encounter. “It is strange, but the first time I met my husband while travelling on business to Miami,” she recalled. “We both lived in Los Angeles, we were Armenians from Venezuela and we worked in the same building in downtown LA. What are the chances of that happening to me? To anyone? From the moment I met him, I knew that he was the man for me. We got married and I understood that if I wanted to raise children, I needed to change careers. Being in production means working odd hours, so I accepted a position in sales and marketing. Now I have two children, a boy and a girl, ages 9 and 13. They attend an Armenian private school where I am an active mom and I couldn’t be happier. I made the right choice for me and my family.” I asked Eliz if she missed the action in the production division. “I love my job in sales. I have a lot to do during my workday and we have a great team. There are so many opportunities out there, considering the US Hispanic market is the second largest Hispanic speaking market with 1 trillion dollars in buying power. I get to be a part of that growth and that excites me.”

“What types of companies are your main clients?” I asked. “Our biggest clients are the automotive companies like Honda and Toyota, and large corporations like McDonalds, Target, Verizon Wireless, etc. It takes more time and research to present our product - Telemundo - to these mainstream clients. You have to prove that your target consumer population has strong potential. Not all clients are receptive and open to the ethnic media market, but a positive shift in that direction is obvious. We make a great effort to reach as many large companies as possible. In this economy, seeing companies thrive with the help of the Telemundo family consisting of research, planning and the sales team makes it all worth it.”

Obviously, the Telemundo ads are different than those of the NBC, as they are geared towards the interests and tastes of the viewers of Telemundo. Gazarian-Semerjian agrees and continues, “Not only ads, but the coverage of the same events is done differently. For example, we had a huge coverage of the Olympic Games in London which was the biggest ever in the history of the event, particularly with U.S. Spanish-language rights holder Telemundo, which aired more than 173 hours of Olympics coverage, NBCUniversal’s most extensive Spanish-language Olympics coverage ever.” The network had two sites dedicated to the Games. OlimpiadasTelemundo.com was mainly focused on the sports aspect, while DeportesTelemundo.com offered a different perspective at the Games, with more news, analysis, color stories and profiles of athletes, particularly those of Hispanic origin. Telemundo had been pushing the Olympics for months with a series of branded segments embedded into local programming. One of these segments was called “Momentos Históricos,” which allowed Telemundo to tap into the vast NBCU Olympics archives for segments on memorable moments from the Games, many – but not all – featuring Hispanic athletes. In addition, this time the company had a huge job covering more than 200 hours of digital videos, along with social media efforts via Twitter and Facebook. “These Olympic Games were the most digital in the event’s history,” explained Gazarian-Semerjian, adding that the trend will definitely continue. “Nowadays people watch more than just TV. They are on social networks and the internet. That presents advertisers and sponsors even more opportunities to reach viewers,” she continued, which led us to a question about the future of TV advertising.”

 

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