The timing of my interview with Ashley Flaska, Vice President of Marketing at NEC Display Solutions, could not have been better. We met in one of NEC’s second floor meeting rooms at InfoComm, the display manufacturer’s biggest show of the year, and the first thing I did upon doing so was extend my congratulations. Just two days prior it was announced that Ashley had been named to CRN 2014’s Women of the Channel, within the Power 100 to boot.
Ashley found her niche in technology over 13 years ago, when she was hired as a Marketing Manager at NEC. Over time, she became an expert in the plasma display and projector division (which later merged with computer monitors and LCD displays) and engaged in the new phenomenon of selling plasma screens for digital signage purposes. As the industry began to demand large-format displays, Ashley went on to oversee NEC’s entire marketing department.
Though it took Ashley several jobs before finding her calling in AV, she has always been marketing oriented. Starting off in graphic design and photography at Purdue University (which she attended on a swimming scholarship), Ashley switched to general communications to obtain a marketing background. Upon graduating, she became a Marketing Coordinator at Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria – an enviable position to anyone who grew up eating pies from the Chicago icon. Not only did she get free lunch, Ashley gained great hands-on experience by exploring everything from local advertising to overall strategy. During her three years, she was promoted to Marketing Director.
“I wish I would have had displays back in those days,” laughed Ashley. “So much of my time was spent printing signs that cost a lot of money. Were I to have digital signage, I could have easily updated daily specials and added videos. Screens keep content fresh, flexible and effective, and pay for themselves very quickly.”
Continuing on the topic of desirable jobs, Ashley’s next gig was at the ad agency Lois/EJL, where she worked on the Chevy account and dealt with talent from Michael Jordan and Mohammad Ali to the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Bears. Ashley tried out another ad agency where she worked on Kraft Foodservice, before becoming the National Director of Marketing for The Clubhouse restaurants.
“What’s great about the digital signage space is that it can appear to be slow-moving; screens become bigger, LED displays become brighter… yet it’s extremely fast paced,” said Ashley. “From a design standpoint and “cool” factor to finding a way for advertisers to connect with viewers who really engage with the screen, keeping up with the latest trends means we are constantly learning.”
Ashley credits NEC’s innovational technology and fun work environment to the company’s practice of encouraging employees to think outside the box and work like entrepreneurs. Ashley and many of her cohorts have been with NEC for a long time, yet understand the importance of embracing newcomers who bring fresh ideas to the table.
“The most integral part of doing digital signage justice and extracting the most from your investment is researching what is available, seeking opinions and selecting the right product for your needs,” Ashley commented. “A bit like how I wound up where I am today.”
Ashley Flaska is responsible for the company’s overall marketing strategy. In this role she manages all advertising, tradeshows, public relations, websites and channel marketing initiatives.
Ashley was the key driver in developing NEC Display Solutions’ best-in-class marketing and channel programs, including Star Student (Education), Integrate NEC (Integration Business) and NEC Business Advantage (SMB). Flaska also led the creation of NEC Partner Net, which offers distributors and resellers incentives to help increase their revenue and profitability.
Ashley holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Purdue University. She was named one of Dealerscope Magazine’s Top 40 under 40 in June 2008, CRN Magazine Channel Chief in February, 2010 and CRN’s Women of the Channel in 2008 and 2014