Spotlight on Ashley Alman, T’13
Ashley is currently based in L.A. and works as the Creative Marketing Director at Netflix. She graduated Duke in 2013 with a double major in Political Science B.A. and International Relations and a certificate in Policy Journalism & Media Studies. While at Duke, she participated in Duke Engage and was on multiple DUU committees. Ashley has previously worked as a writer for INDY Week and the Huffington Post, and the social media editor for politics at the Huffington Post.
How did you get involved with DUU?
It was one of the best accidents that happened to me during my time at Duke. I was the VP of House Council as a freshman which put me on East Campus Council which was basically a fusion of DSG and DUU. It handled both residential policy and some events and programming, so ultimately programming people were divided into DUU and the policy people were divided into DSG. From Campus Council, I got involved with LDOC and Old Duke and I continued on with LDOC and Old Duke through my time at Duke. And then my senior year, I was VP of Marketing for DUU.
What’s your favorite DUU memory or your favorite part of DUU?
Outside of the fun, creativity and challenges that came with putting on events and programming through DUU, the relationships I built in that program have been some of my most meaningful. When I was a senior I took on a mentee, through the FIP (First-Year Intern) program and she is still one of my closest friends. She’s actually in L.A. with me as well. What’s been really amazing about it is that at the time, I was explicitly a mentor to her. After college, she moved to L.A. long before I ended up out here and coincidentally, we both ended up working in the documentary world there. When I moved out here, she became my mentor. It’s really an exciting thing to have someone that you feel like you really taught and helped build up, get to show you the ropes, and it’s totally not something that would’ve happened if it weren’t for working together at DUU. The pendulum swings back and forth until the end of time.
How did your involvement in DUU help you in your life after college?
My experiences with DUU totally equipped me for the work that I do now in ways that my academic work never could have. My first job was writing for the Huffington Post. But then it transitioned from news writing to managing the social media accounts, which was something I had done working on LDOC promotion and promotion for other DUU events. Fast forward a couple years and I’m at Netflix, managing budgets and pulling together campaigns. The last time I had experiences like these was when I was on the LDOC committee, working out which artist to collaborate with based on the budget we had, thinking about how to get students psyched about a wide range of artists, running T-shirt design contests, things like that. All these little things that I did then, I do on a much larger scale now, but it was so fun to cut my teeth doing that for DUU and that’s for sure what made me the professional that I am today.
What was your career path like? Did you always know you wanted to end be in marketing?
Honestly, I didn’t really even understand marketing until I had a job with marketing in the title. I really wanted to get into news and I got an internship at the Huffington Post after graduation. I thought for sure that I would stay in news writing, but the only way they would give me a job out of the internship program was as the evening editor covering breaking news overnight. When the assistant manager moved onto another role, my boss asked me if I knew anyone who would want to manage the social accounts for politics coverage and I offered myself up. That was my first foray into marketing. Then, Netflix reached out because they were looking for someone to manage the social media campaigns for documentary films and series. Now, I manage full marketing campaigns, from social media to trailers, billboards, etc. for comedy series. I feel like happy accidents are a theme in my life. I just so happened to get involved in a lot of the organizations that I ended up sticking with at Duke and I’m so glad that panned out the way that it did. Same with my trajectory getting into social media and marketing here at Netflix.
Do you have a favorite project that you’ve worked on/are working on?
I am working on a show right now called “Tentified” that is about gentrification in East L.A.. It’s a funny exploration of identity and dealing with this issue that’s happening in every metropolitan area across the world. I really loved working on this because instead of just going to the typical marketing agencies that we usually go to, we’ve been going to up and coming artists to give people an opportunity to work on a campaign that they otherwise probably wouldn’t get to touch. And through that process I feel like we’re telling a much more authentic and compelling story.
What do you think is the most challenging thing about your current position?
There’s more entertainment available than ever on several streaming services now, so it’s really really hard to get people excited about a show when they have so many other things that they could be watching. Constantly having to think of new ways to drop a trailer or break out an artist is definitely the challenge of the everyday. The issue with working in a creative field is that you can wake up one morning and you’re just like, “I am out of ideas man.” Keeping things fresh and exciting when people already feel like there are too many shows is the hardest part of my job. But, when we get it right, it is so rewarding.
How do you and your team come up with fresh ideas?
To oversimplify it, the best way to get people excited and talking about it is to meet them where they are as they are. A lot of marketers will just put a very traditional advertisement on a TV network. For me, striking gold here is when we do something like a TikTok challenge because that’s where people are. It’s not an overproduced video and it travels because people feel like it’s relatable and fun. And I think sometimes the first instinct when you’re getting into marketing is, the more expensive and polished a campaign is, that’ll be the best thing, and that’s definitely not always the best thing. Sometimes, you need to take a step back and think not how to get a big audience excited about something, but how to get a friend excited about something. Sometimes, the less complicated it is, the more it will draw people in.