The Agency Sea Change at Kraft Foods

Marketing leader Dana Anderson discusses new relationships

In nearly three years as a marketing leader at Kraft Foods, Dana Anderson has overseen a sea change. A traditional, Midwestern packaged-goods company known for long relationships with global agencies like Ogilvy & Mather, JWT, and Draftfcb has added more than a half-dozen smaller shops to the roster—including Crispin Porter + Bogusky, TBWA, The Martin Agency, Wieden + Kennedy, Droga5, and Taxi—and shifted nearly 20 brand assignments, often at the expense of the larger shops. In an interview this week, Anderson, a former agency leader who’s now svp of marketing strategy and communications at Kraft, explains the rationale behind the moves, how Procter & Gamble influenced them, and what Kraft has done to become a better client, two weeks after she delivered the most popular speech at the Association of National Advertisers conference in Phoenix. 


I hear you have an agency scout.

Her name is Deb Giampoli and she works in my group. . . . You know it’s almost a cliché to say that the marketing landscape was changing and it was moving at such a pace that we wanted to make sure we understood companies in the marketplace who might be doing stuff differently. . . . We needed to have our fingers on the pulse.


What do you look for in new shops?

Something that’s real interesting that we’ve seen in shops that have been formed in the last five or 10 years—people who came certainly from the advertising industry—is this holistic view. I know that sounds simple but that they solve the whole problem, that they look at it as a whole cloth and bring to you that answer. When I talk to the ad directors in the business units, sometimes they get so many partners that it’s hard to manage. “I’ve got a digital, I’ve got a traditional, I’ve got the mobile guy. I’ve got the search lady.” And for those people who’ve made that transition, it’s so much easier when the idea is integrated.


The creative roster has expanded considerably on your watch. What’s the strategy behind that?

The goal and the objective that was given to me when I came was, we need to lift the quality of the marketing. It was a little functional. It was good. But with much more interaction with consumers, your need to be more transparent and to make it more participative, we really wanted to lift the ideas. [Four years ago] we started taking a contingent to Cannes—representatives from around the world. And they would see the work and go, “Oh, my goodness.”


Given the success of Procter & Gamble’s relationship with Wieden + Kennedy on Old Spice and its influence on the industry, does Kraft have Wieden/P&G envy?


I don’t know if envy is the right word. I think people looked at that and went, “Wow.” P&G was picking it up on a lot of levels. They were interested in design, they were changing the way that they worked, and I think people looked on with admiration because the assumption is if you’re big, you’re not going to change things. You’re going to keep going the same way. [Former P&G CMO] Jim Stengel came to speak at Kraft [in April 2010]. We asked him about that decision [to hire Wieden], and he said he really loved them as an agency, but the best thing you can do is to match them with the right folks, particularly when you’re starting on a journey. Make sure that you’re introducing them to the right team, the team that’s ready.


What do the new shops have to demonstrate to stick?

Together we have to demonstrate something. We have to demonstrate that we’ll be great partners, that we’ll be clear in our strategic partnership, that we have clear visions for our brands that we can articulate and that we help them together—we generally do the strategy together—so that it’s inspiring. We also have to be good audiences and have open ears and hearts when they bring work. We try to make sure that we understand what it’s like to be their partners and actually spend time with it. . . . The new partners—we expect them to reach high and help us get there. Sometimes to be patient with us, sometimes not, if you know what I mean. To walk that line between courage and patience.


How are the new relationships working out?

So far these partnerships have been really pleasurable. When I talk to people who are in relationships where it was hard—they couldn’t get there and they kept trying and trying—the words they use is, “It’s like a relief.” One woman said, “I feel it in my whole body.” I also think they’re enthused; they’re beginning this journey together. When I was in the agency business—10 years back—what you pitched in the room was never made generally because you would go research it. I would say many more times than not we’re actually choosing work from the room and making it. Part of that is doing a much better job on the brief. We also are teaching ourselves. Take as much time with them as they need, as many meetings as they need with you. It’s great because you’re starting off with a bang like, “Man, I’ve found it. Let’s go.”


How has Kraft changed its creative development process?

Lots of times we ask [agencies] how they like to work, what’s the best way for you? They often have a very good answer. Sometimes that answer is even written down. Crispin had 16 sentences that make for great partnerships. They show them early and we talk about them and understand how we need to work with each other. On our side, probably the best thing we’ve done is make sure that we know with our brands, that we’re absolutely clear and ready by the time that we meet with our agencies and brief them. From the agency side, there was nothing worse than doing a bunch of work, bringing it into the room and then having somebody go, “Gee, you know, I’m not sure about the strategy.” Everybody’s shoulders fell and it was almost like it wasn’t apparent until you saw the execution and that it felt wrong. We need to be responsible farther upstream, partner with agencies there, get all of the information out. We call it, analyze, choose, manage.


Has your level of testing changed?

Some of the BU’s—they make their own decisions about that. Some of them have chosen not to. Some have asked their agency, “What have you worked with that you really like?” Sometimes, in the case of new products, they really feel better doing some testing because it’s a big bet and it’s a new venture. A lot of it depends on the folks on the team.


What do longtime roster shops have to do to stick and how have you explained the changes to them?

With everybody, with old and new partners, we’re fairly consistent [that] this is the level of work that we’re trying to get to, that we want to buy and that we’re open to it, so bring us your very best. For big global agencies . . . sometimes the picture is [skewed because] you only see North America. Some of those shops are doing great work for us around the world, but sometimes it’s invisible here. So, we celebrate those with the same vigor. Ogilvy in India, in South Africa is doing some wonderful work on Cadbury Dairy Milk. There is new work in development from JWT out of the U.K. for Halls. The work on Tang in Brazil through Ogilvy had huge impact on that business—huge. So, we try to get everybody to do their very best everywhere they are. And I have a lot of patience and sympathy for partners that have been with us for a long time because we made a little bit of a left turn. I, in a way, don’t blame them for in the beginning for looking at you, going, “Really? Really?”


So, how do you get over that hump?

Be very consistent on what we’re buying. Be very consistent on our encouragement. You know when the talent scout went to go visit new folks, they had the same reaction too: “Really?” So, we were very patient, very consistent. We hope that bit by bit the work that we buy and goes on air is testimony to our standards. Also, inside the company there’s a lot of enthusiasm for great marketing all the way to the top. So, folks that are on the brand [side] know that if, “Man, if I do a great job on this, it’s going to be something that I’m going to be known for. That work is going to travel and I’m going to get good feedback.” So, there’s kind of a verve or vigor in the hallways that is infectious and it gives people more confidence and courage internally.