As recently as 2007, when Janet Rollé joined BET Networks, the Viacom cable network's ratings were at a standstill, and it was viewed as a risky environment for major marketers. Fast-forward to 2010, and BET is having its best year ever under Rollé's leadership as exec VP-chief marketing officer. The network has seen record ratings growth for the last 18 months and a bigger, wider audience. In an interview with Ad Age, Rollé articulated her charge: "We were trying to be all things to all people. But we settled on being more things to more people. My job is to direct you and help you understand the full array of offerings BET has, no matter what your interests or background may be."
He started the year at Hyundai, making big splashes in big places (Super Bowl, Oscars), then jumped to Nissan for a mere six weeks before landing at GM, where he had carte blanche to remake the marketing organization. And that he did, ditching both longtime agencies and newcomers for his own group of shops with whom he has had long relationships. Now GM has IPO'd and he's back in the big game. While it's probably too soon to tell if GM will be able to resurrect itself as Ford has done, the automaker seems on the right track with its latest round of cars. It will be up to Ewanick to make sure the marketing matches the metal.
Conan O' Brien
Conan may have gotten the short end of the stick when NBC changed its mind on the failed Leno experiment (and for some reason, can't let go of his resentment over landing at TBS), but the comedian put his time between networks to good use and provided a case study in word-of-mouth and social-media marketing. His stand-up-comedy tour drew thousands around the country, building up goodwill and a hell of a beard. And don't forget his smart-aleck Twitter feed. By the time Team Coco's blimp landed at TBS, O' Brien had a built-in audience that was 4.2 million strong for his debut show.
He drew all eyes back to magazines by buying Newsweek from the Washington Post Co. without a business plan except the intent to save it one way or another -- and then by forging a stunning but risky merger with The Daily Beast that secured Tina Brown as Newsweek's new editor. Harman, a nonagenarian who made his millions in the stereo business, told staffers he would be "delighted" to see Newsweek return to profitability "over a period of a few years."
Mary Beth West
During her tenure, the Kraft CMO -- along with CEO Irene Rosenfeld and Senior VP-Marketing Strategy and Communications Dana Anderson -- has been remarkably aggressive in terms of shaking up its marketing as well as its agency roster. Once a two-agency marketer known for its steadfastness, Kraft has spread its work far and wide. West had an incredibly fast ascension at Kraft and is clearly someone Rosenfeld trusts and counts on -- so much so that she's been given oversight of the Cadbury business as the leader of the global chocolate team.
Who'da thunk the last surviving Golden Girl would become one of this year's pop-culture phenomenons and a marketer's dream? She kicked off the year in a high-profile Super Bowl spot for Snickers (totally eclipsing poor Abe Vigoda), hosted one of the highest-rated "Saturday Night Live" episodes of the year (after a Facebook movement to get her the gig) and was handed a co-starring role on TV Land's first sitcom, "Hot in Cleveland."
Procter & Gamble
He might not be flashy, but he quietly has made or had a hand in some substantial changes either begun or implemented this year. These include consolidating all marketing functions into the global brand-building organization; leading P&G's biggest corporate-branding campaign ever at the Winter Olympics; and pushing through the "store back" movement of trying to ensure every campaign idea starts with looking at how it will play out at the store shelf.
Domino's chief marketing officer headed a campaign in which the company admitted it was selling a crappy product, then lived to tell the company's success story. Recognizing that sales were down and something needed to be done, he embarked on a risky move that could have failed miserably. But critics' skepticism of the campaign, from Crispin Porter & Bogusky, gave way to praise for the ads' self-deprecating and authentic tone, and consumers responded with their wallets: The pizza chain saw a 14.3% increase in first-quarter same-store sales. Most recently, third-quarter same-store sales were up 11.7%.
Can you recall a simpler time, when no one knew what a Bieber was? In fact, most people over 15 probably still don't know what a Bieber is, other than a word that's always topping trends on Twitter and other social-media platforms. But the music industry knows, as do thousands upon thousands of young girls. Oh, and Walmart, which has inked a deal that gives it first dibs on young Bieber's albums, his fragrance line and a line of ... nail polish? Yes. Nail polish.
Remember when people were debating whether Sarah Palin lost John McCain the presidential election or breathed life into a campaign that had no shot against Barack Obama? The Mama Grizzly seemed to answer that question this year. She became a powerful forces in then Republican Party and a big influence on midterm elections, staying in the spotlight all the year with good publicity and bad, and giving (or withholding) her blessing in primaries and generals across the land. All this, of course, while letting her name float for a 2012 presidential run. Like it or not, Brand Palin has legs.