Mondelez’s Dana Anderson Says Generosity Is Key to Creativity

At 4A's, she finds inspiration in a writer for The Simpsons

With her signature mixture of humor and mindfulness, Mondelez marketing chief Dana Anderson generated laughs and knowing nods this morning at the 4A's Transformation Conference in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Anderson's topic was collaboration, and, true to form, she delivered it with the ease of a standup comedian. She eschewed predictable Powerpoint slides and played a video about chimpanzee behavior in captivity (they tend to collaborate more easily than humans), quoted from books and showed a clip of comedians smiling at a performer skewering them to make points about the good and bad of human nature.

Toward the end of her 30-minute presentation, Anderson praised the creative contributions of George Meyer, one of the writers behind The Simpsons, who regularly took on hard assignments and offered ideas for jokes in scripts without taking credit. To Anderson, Meyer is a classic giver and therefore a highly successful collaborator.

"There's a crucial stretch of the Simpsons—over 10 years—where he was not credited for a single joke, though he was responsible for a huge number of them. And I ask, could you go 10 years without credit? I don't know if I could," said Anderson, the svp of marketing strategy and communications at Mondelez and a former agency leader. "The people who worked for him said he took the worst assignments—celebrities nobody wanted to work with, the most difficult assignments—and he would give them the easiest ones. The people who worked for him grew up and went on to be so successful on their own because of the giving that he had."

Anderson's conclusion?

"He is the perfect ecd, the perfect ecd," she said. "In fact, Meyer's personal motto was, 'Show up, work hard, be kind and take the high road.' And I think what I'm trying to communicate today is … I want you to give until it hurts. I want you to give on such a level so that we spur creativity in the people around us and that we engage with our clients to lift up, spur their creativity and their productivity too."

Of course, successful collaboration is a two-way street and Anderson acknowledged that marketers like Mondelez need to work harder to respect, understand and support agency executives. In particular agencies have told Mondelez that they need trust, brutal honesty and decisiveness.

Turning again to agencies, Anderson called for more confidence.

"Not cocky, not I know everything: 'Mobile is at the center of everything we do'—but it isn't. But sheer confidence in what you do," Anderson said, eliciting a roar of laughter with her mobile crack. "When you as the agency are on your back foot, when you are desperate, when you are selling too hard, that's when brand teams back up. But if you are confident, it is so alluring to them and it helps them say, 'Yes.'"

Anderson being Anderson, she ended her presentation with—what else?—a quote from Dr. Seuss: "Things may happen and often do to people as brainy and footsy as you."