Every year, Variety seeks to identify the next generation of leaders in the entertainment business, looking for representatives in the creative community, film, TV, music and digital. This year’s group has a heavy New York focus: We selected executives from forward thinking companies such as Spotify, Group Nine and Endeavor Audio, as well as writers and producers in late night comedy, plus agents and managers who help put the deals together that keep the entertainment business humming.
CAMPAIGN LEAD, ALEXA, AMAZON, 28
Gupta brought strategic thinking to the marketing team at the New York Times, launching
the “Truth Is Hard” and “The Truth Has a Voice” campaigns, as well as the “Modern Love” feature that evolved into an original Amazon series that premiered last month. She’s just left the Times for Amazon, where she’ll lead campaigns for the Alexa voice assistant. “You need to be thinking about marketing and how every part of the product experience, every part of the consumer journey is going to affect the way that people think and feel about that brand — and ultimately their decision to buy into it.”
CEO, GROUP NINE, 38
It’s been a rocky road for many digital-first media moguls in recent years, but Lerer has persevered through acquisition and consolidation. The son of HuffPo co-founder Ken Lerer, he started Thrillist with college friend Adam Rich in 2003, and 13 years later they took on a $100 million investment from Discovery Inc. and placed it under the Group Nine Media umbrella with fellow digital media brands the Dodo, Now This News and Seeker. In October, his company acquired women’s lifestyle publisher Pop Sugar. “I’m a real believer in this industry and this business,” he says, “and I think that when I’m at my best, it can be a little contagious.”
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HEAD OF U.S. ENTERTAINMENT PARTNERSHIPS, TWITTER, 39
New York-based Rosen’s job is to find new ways for fans and brands to join the conversation around awards shows and events, from multiple live streams of the Oscars red carpet to the MTV VMA Stan Cam, which enables users to decide which celebrity audience members they watch on the platform. “We want to be a source of support and partnership for media companies, whether that’s coming up with creative innovations to iterate on what they’re doing or just providing a turn-key revenue stream,” says Rosen, who worked in publicity at Fox and partner management and program development at Viacom before coming to Twitter.
GENERAL MANAGER, ENDEAVOR AUDIO, 30
Soyoola got his start in an unlikely place: Goldman Sachs. After co-founding analytics company Jamplify and a stint at Panoply Media, he was tapped to head Endeavor’s
new branch, solely dedicated to podcasts. Among them: “Blackout” with Academy Award-winner Rami Malek. He says his goal is to extend the medium beyond the intelligentsia that first embraced it to creators that have worked on other platforms. “I don’t even think we’re in the first inning of podcasting yet — it’s so early. The opportunity to innovate and create new business models and new kinds of content and new audio will be here for a long time.”
HEAD GLOBAL INDUSTRY MARKETING, FACEBOOK, 34
Sweeney is spearheading new forms of marketing to build real-world networks on Mark Zuckerberg’s social-media platform, while helping to tackle broader issues such as brand safety and cyber bullying. “We’re constantly pushing to raise the bar and blend marketing and brand experience with quality content-driven entertainment,” she says. “My great great grandfather was a Hollywood actor, no small accomplishment for a first generation Chinese immigrant, and while I worked on the Paramount lot early in my career, I think he’d be proud to see the connecting thread between his and my work today, that the best way to have impact is to create a real human connection.”