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Special Report: Media Mavens 2012

Media Mavens: Debra Berman, Kraft Foods Group

Head of New Standalone Grocery Brand Company Has Already Overseen 55 New Brand Strategies at Company

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Debra Berman
Debra Berman

Résumé: At Kraft since 2009, Ms. Berman, will oversee marketing and media strategy for the new standalone grocery-brand company, which launches Oct. 1 when the old Kraft Foods splits in two. She came from DDB, where she worked on Clorox.

Challenge: CEO Tony Vernon has pledged that the new company will boost marketing as it seeks to create "a renaissance in North American food and beverage." Ms. Berman must execute that strategy.

Quick fact: The VP-marketing and engagement is an avid snowboarder and rafter.

The new Kraft Foods Group will not have a CMO, leaving Ms. Berman with responsibility over media and marketing strategy for brands that spent $535 million on advertising globally last year, including Oscar Mayer and Planters. A Baltimore native who loves to smile, she has already made her mark at the food company, completing more than 55 new brand strategies at Kraft Foods in her previous role as senior-director for global planning and strategy. In that position, she led a move to bring more brand work and planning in-house, taking some responsibility away from creative agencies. That model will continue at the new company.

"We shake the tree in a way that our agency partners can't," she said. "We ask the questions of our teams that [agencies] might get fired for asking."

For "power brands" such as Macaroni & Cheese, which spend big on traditional media, the strategy is not about "hammering the redundancy of message," but "staying fresh," she said. Meanwhile, Kraft will use an entrepreneurial approach for brands that get less media support. For example, Oscar Mayer recently launched "The Great American Bacon Barter," in which a comedian is traveling penniless across the country and trading bacon for essentials. The program has already gotten a ton of free media coverage.

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