Olivier François, the CMO and much-praised branding engine for Chrysler Group, drove home tonight with the honor of Grand Brand Genius of 2012.
The award capped off Adweek’s Brand Genius gala awards dinner, an annual rite that recognizes the year’s 10 most memorable and innovative branding efforts and the marketers behind them. The winners, one for each major consumer-goods category, were chosen by a panel of the magazine’s senior editors. Each honoree received a profile in Adweek's Oct. 29 issue, in addition to being feted at the event, held tonight to a packed house at the Edison Ballroom in New York.
Chrysler’s François took top honors for his fearless marketing plans, which came at a time when many wondered if Chrysler itself hadn’t reached the end of the road. Despite the nameplate’s close brush with outright liquidation, François moved forward with a costly and colorful Super Bowl spot featuring Clint Eastwood reminding a recession-addled audience that it was “Halftime in America,” and that Chrysler planned to stay in the automotive game. The spot was actually François’ second marketing touchdown for Chrysler; he helped recruit hip-hop icon Eminem to star in the “Imported from Detroit” spot in 2011. Thanks to these and other efforts, François has been instrumental in returning the American brand to double-digit growth.
Adweek’s other Brand Genius honorees included Lionsgate’s Tim Palen, who led the yearlong effort to get audiences salivating over The Hunger Games; Mondelez International’s Lisa Mann, who orchestrated the centennial birthday party for Oreo cookies; and Leslie Berland, who almost singlehandedly brought American Express into the realm of social-media marketing.
This year’s program also saw the debut of the Brand Visionary Award to recognize not just a year, but a career’s worth, of successful brand building. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who founded and built Bloomberg LP into one of the most influential and successful media companies in the world, was the award’s first recipient.
Originally known as Brandweek’s Marketer of the Year awards, Adweek’s Brand Genius honors continue a two-decade tradition of identifying and saluting the brightest minds of the marketing world.