Dana Anderson
Chief Transformation Officer

MediaLink’s Dana Anderson on Generosity: ‘The Unused Power in Business’

If you’ve ever been to ANA’s Masters of Marketing, Cannes Lions or any other major industry event, then you’ve no doubt had “The Dana Anderson Experience.” By that, I mean brilliant insights by way of storytelling that’s both entertaining and captivating. But like everyone else, the former Mondelēz CMO honed her speaking skills after years of practice and hard work. Read on to learn how small affirmations can lead to big leaps forward.

How did you get to where you are today? 

I’m here by virtue of great mentors and helpful people. I’m not one of those people who had the ultimate map for my career in my head since I was 12. Over the years, I’ve journeyed through planning, agency side, client side, now consulting. For example, I was in account management when I first met the former global planner of JWT David Baker. He saw something in me and convinced me to become a planner. That one shift affected everything that was to come from that point forward.

What inspired you to make the moves between agency and client side?

Planning aligned with my skillset and, because of that, I had much more to contribute. I was good at it, and it propelled me to my roles at FCB and DDB. Then, as the agency business began to change, I decided I wanted to go client side. I was lucky enough to go to work at Kraft, which had been one of my clients during my agency days. So, the triggers in my career shifts have varied. Sometimes they were inspired by my own curiosities. Sometimes by people who inspired me and pointed me in the right direction. Sometimes all it took was a good book.

What pivotal moments did you face along the way?

"Her tweet went global so before I even got home, I was known as a great speaker."

I gave a speech at the ANA in 2011 entitled “Leap.” I was a seasoned speaker by then, with many agency and client presentations under my belt. But this was a weightier crowd than I was used to, a mixture of lots of different people. I worked on that speech very hard and was very conscious of doing a good job. Thomas Friedman from NYT spoke before me and while I was standing backstage waiting to go on, someone said how nervous I must be following Thomas Friedman.  Well, that hadn’t occurred to me and then I really started to worry. But I jumped right into the water and gave my speech. After the conference, I learned that my presentation was rated No. 1 (sorry, Thomas) and my idol Martha Stewart tweeted from the audience, “what a treasure Dana Anderson is for Kraft.”  Her tweet went global so before I even got home, I was known as a great speaker. That one pivotal moment gave me visibility I never had before. Discovering my voice as a speaker changed the way I saw myself and how others saw and see me.

What do you see as the major opportunities and challenges for women today?

Every person has his or her own “bag” to carry and big game to win. Opportunities and challenges vary from one individual to the next, but in a more universal sense – the biggest challenge for women today is equal pay. The opportunities for women are endless, at least in this economy in this country. But the pay has to be on par with what men are paid. In other countries and societies, women are not very free to work and to be heard. In the U.S., there are already huge opportunities for women in marketing. I do wish we could see more women sitting at the top of holding company management and on boards of companies across the country. And, they should earn what their male counterparts are making.

What advice can you share?

"[Generosity] changes how you view the world and how you see opportunities in new ways."

Be curious and be generous. Curiosity is deeply linked to learning. I believe that if you keep changing and evolving, you’ll always have a job. Generosity came from my friendship with Adam Grant and reading his book Give and Take. In my conversations with him, he talked about how giving had changed his life and he encouraged me to give it a try. I did. I can testify that it changes how you view the world and how you see opportunities in new ways. Finally, I believe that generosity has incredible, unused power in business.

Who helped you in your journey and how did they help shape your thinking?

David Baker convinced me to be a planner. Mary Beth West [SVP, Chief Growth Officer at The Hershey Company] taught me how to focus and excel in a client world. Nina DiSesa [former Chairman and Chief Creative Officer at McCann Erickson] taught me to be strong in my own right. Tony Weisman [CMO of Dunkin'] taught me about unearned favor. Jill Baskin [CMO of The Hershey Company] taught me about standing up for what is right. Tim Scott [SVP and CMO of Land O’Lakes] taught me laughing never goes out of style.

How have you found the right balance between your personal life and career? 

"I learned how to draw boundaries and to be efficient with my time."

In the beginning, when I had a family, a small child and a job in advertising, it was hard. There was the expectation of long hours and my family sometimes bore the brunt of that. As I matured, I learned how to draw boundaries and to be efficient with my time. By putting more focus and energy into getting my work done, I could go home earlier. Then, I was able to help my daughter with homework or make dinner. My husband and I would trade off on the chores.  Now, I truly believe in the benefit of the balance. It not only helps you to preserve borders between your personal and work worlds but gives you time for restoration, discovery and contemplation.

Knowing what you know today, what one thing would you have done differently early in your career?

Your mistakes don’t matter nearly as much as you think they do. And, your boss thinks about your career about one-tenth the time you think she does. So, forgive yourself and steer your own boat, my friends.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, money or talent would be no object, what would you be doing?

Live comedy.

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