ANA Annual Meeting 2014

Retiring General Mills CMO Names His Favorite Campaign

Mark Addicks Reflects on a Cheerios Effort That Came Years Ago

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General Mills Chief Marketing Officer Mark Addicks, who is retiring next year, has been involved in hundreds of campaigns across dozens of brands during his 26-year career at the food giant.

But which is his favorite? His answer, at the Association of National Advertiser's "Masters of Marketing" conference in Orlando: a 1990s campaign that launched Frosted Cheerios. Ads began from the perspective of the box's interior and featured B-list celebs like Chris Elliott and Gilbert Gottfried.

"It feels fresh, it feels original still, 15 years later … It was way before its time," said Mr. Addicks, who kicked of the ANA event with a presentation in which he spotlighted more recent General Mills campaigns.

Another one of his favorites is this Cheerios ad, called "adoption."

The annual ANA event drew nearly 3,000 marketers, vendors and agency executives to network and hear presentations from big-spending marketers like Microsoft, Target and Kraft Foods Group. It runs through Sunday.

Mr. Addicks used his presentation to discuss "brand purpose," which has been a consistent theme at ANA events in recent years. General Mills' philosophy involves identifying influential consumers within a category that the company calls "brand champions." They are the "super consumers of your category," Mr. Addicks said, noting that successful brands identify the "passion points" that make these consumers tick.

"What I love about purpose" he said, is that it "really asks your team to think big. What do you want to be? What do you want to do? Where can the brand grow?"

He pointed to several examples, including Betty Crocker's recent outreach to modern families including LGBT couples through an effort called the Families Project.

Pillsbury, meanwhile, redefined its purpose as appealing to "maker nation," meaning that the brand's mission is to help people used the baking brand for creative, but simple recipes. "It totally flipped the marketing model," Mr. Addicks said. "We went from push TV to more idea-driven, creativity driven ideas, through social that can be shared."

Mr. Addicks routinely credited his ad agencies, including Tribal Worldwide, Toronto, which created a campaign in Canada for Peanut Butter Cheerios called "How To Dad." The online videos depart from the typical bumbling dad narrative often seen in food ads by presenting dads as multi-tasking super heroes for kids.

Asked how he gets his agencies on the same page, Mr. Addicks said that "usually the agencies are pulling us along," noting that General Mills tends to be a "very analytical culture." So at the beginning of projects, the marketer asks its agencies to "come in and inspire us."

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