Dana Anderson’s Signature Style of Storytelling Helps Sell More Oreos

The Mondelez marketing strategist is the client agencies wish they had

Dana Anderson, svp, marketing strategy and communications at snack and gum giant Mondelez International, recalls a new business presentation she made in the early 1980s that was anything but sweet. 

Photos: Kyrstina Archer; Hair and Makeup: Ashley Vest; Lettering: Jen Mussari

“I looked at my boss, John Hayter, who was running the [Young & Rubicam Chicago] office, and I said, ‘I think I need a little help.’ I plopped right over and they took me into the office of someone who had a couch. The lady at the front desk thought perhaps I was dying, so she called the medical people and they showed up.”

Thirty years after that fainting spell, she won’t identify the client, though she confides, “We didn’t get the business.”

Today, Anderson laughs as she tells the tale—and well she should. Public speaking has become her forte. She ranks among the most in-demand presenters in the marketing industry, renowned for her wry, witty and insightful presentations at confabs for the Association of National Advertisers and the 4A’s and at the Cannes Lions Festival.

Moreover, she serves as a catalyst for the advertising created by Mondelez brands, which last year invested a collective $180 million in domestic media and about $1.5 billion in marketing worldwide. Working closely with CMO Mary Beth West, to whom she reports, Anderson guides internal teams and outside shops as they shape the public image of brands like Oreo, Cadbury, Trident and Ritz. She joined the company in 2012, when Mondelez spun out of Kraft Foods, and was praised for shaking up the firm’s agency roster by hiring hot young shops and bringing a renewed vigor to its rather predictable creative.

But back to that fainting spell. Anderson was at the time just beginning her career, and when she arrived at work the day after the episode, she was still upset, naturally. Summoned to Hayter’s office, she got a pep talk that transformed an embarrassing moment into a powerful learning experience. “He said, ‘You shouldn’t be nervous. And when you get nervous, I want you to look at me and know I’m fighting for you.’”

That encouragement inspired a period of reflection. “I realized that I was focused on the wrong thing,” Anderson says. “I was focused on how I felt, not on what they”—the client and, by extension, consumers targeted by the company’s advertising—“needed.”

Of course, it was but one event among many that shaped her outlook over the course of a nearly 35-year career. Still, maintaining an outward focus has become an Anderson trademark. Combine that with a love of and talent for narrative storytelling (she studied journalism and advertising at the University of Missouri) and it’s perhaps no surprise that Anderson has guided memorable campaigns and won raves on the speaking circuit.

After nine years at Y&R, she moved across town to JWT, where she ran global planning on Kraft. Next, she launched FCB Chicago’s planning department and rose to CEO, a role she later held at DDB Chicago, also a Kraft shop and her final agency post before going client side in 2009.

At Mondelez, which generated $35 billion in sales last year, she leads brand strategies, consumer insights, design and media (including digital, social and mobile), with the mission of crafting content that transcends tried-and-true marketing tropes. “If you have the choice between being bored and being engaged, that’s an easy pick,” she says. “So we work really hard to make sure we take the right risks and try new things because they almost always pay off—and that makes it so much more fun for people to engage.”

She gets deeply involved in the creative process, devising brand strategies and briefing agencies on their assignments, reviewing work and providing feedback at key points in campaign development.

Getting Krafty