CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- After six months as VP-global media services, one of longtime agency hand Mark Stewart's primary observations is "it's easier to drive change from the inside."
When Mr. Stewart held his first team-building meeting with Kraft's media team and its agency, MediaVest USA, instead of the usual lunch-or-dinner-and-golf outing, the group volunteered side-by-side at a soup kitchen for half a day. "Mark is a known visionary and industry leader in our business," said Bill Tucker, chief executive of MediaVest USA. "He has quickly really elevated the bar of media at Kraft, and that is a huge undertaking."
Mr. Stewart, 49, said that part of his attraction to Kraft was the company's history of media innovation that dates back to the 1920s with radio shows and variety hours. Recent work such as the iFood Assistant, and "Mind Body Balance" -- an online program with Faith Ford that Kraft sponsors on MSN.com -- have made it clear to him that the tradition is alive and well. And it helps that he's got a sizable budget to play with. According to TNS Media Intelligence, Kraft spent $807 million in measured media during 2008.
Mr. Stewart said that his role will be to find even more of those opportunities and make sure they're integrated.
"A big part of what I have to do here is to educate and kind of give our folks a view of the potential and what's possible," he said, noting that most of the department has a long history with the company and a deep knowledge of the business. "My job is to open the doors a bit and give them a view on how the business of agencies run."
As part of the company's multi-year turnaround plan, Kraft chief executive Irene Rosenfeld has boosted spending, particularly on iconic brands such as Kraft Singles, Oreos, Macaroni & Cheese and Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Ms. Rosenfeld has also installed two marketers at the top of the organization, Mary Beth West as CMO, and Dana Anderson as senior VP-marketing strategy and communication.
Ms. Anderson said of Mr. Stewart that "Everyone at Kraft appreciates his indelible optimism and loves him for his joyous approach to any problem." She added, "He brings a fresh and modern approach, is aptly navigating the evolving media landscape and is leading us to a future that is creative and imaginative."