Women to Watch 2010

Women to Watch: Kirsten Flanik

Exec VP-Worldwide Senior Director, BBDO, New York

By Published on .

A correction has been made in this story. See below.

CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- In Kirsten Flanik's first three years at BBDO, she's added to the agency's Mars business, with pet-food brands such as Nutro and Greenies, candy brands such as Fling, and built sales for longtime accounts such as M&M's. She also recently pitched and won the marketer's Orbitz business. But around the agency, her reputation pretty much boils down to one thing: getting Snickers back.

The brand, which had been with BBDO since 1995, spent three years at Omnicom Group sibling TBWA, starting in 2006. Ms. Flanik's team snagged it back last fall.

"It's one of those brands that felt like a part of BBDO, and when we got it back, there was so much excitement, there wasn't anyone in this agency that didn't want to work on it," Ms. Flanik, 43, said. That was a good thing, because Mars then asked the agency to launch "You're not you when you're hungry" in time for this year's Super Bowl.

"We had to just go and move so fast that nobody had time to second-guess," she said. That was probably a good thing, too, because given enough time, most agencies and marketers might be able to talk themselves out of knocking the beloved Betty White into the mud. The Super Bowl spot, of course, was a boon for all involved. The spot won USA Today's ad meter, and has helped spur sales of the iconic chocolate bar. The ad's continuing popularity sparked a Facebook campaign that helped get Betty White a hosting gig on "Saturday Night Live." (Said Ms. White: "Like eating a Snickers bar, with Kirsten you certainly get your fill of energy. She's a nonstop leader.")

It was an important time for Snickers to put a stake in the ground -- the international chocolate market is expected to get a lot more competitive. Kraft completed its purchase of Cadbury in February, and Hershey has said it will be stepping up its game. Snickers and M&M's, two of the best-selling chocolate products in the U.S. -- and both BBDO accounts -- will likely have to work harder to maintain sales and market share.

Ms. Flanik said that when working with iconic brands, the challenge is finding something fresh to say that also has broad appeal. M&M's, for instance, launched the "inner M" campaign, which leans heavily on digital and social media, and encourages consumers to create their own M&M avatars. And the Snickers "You're not you when you're hungry" campaign, she said, can resonate with consumers from their teens to their 80s.

Todd Lachman, president-Mars Chocolate, North America, cited Ms. Flanik's "passionate and strategic leadership" on Mars brands, as well as a "tremendous drive to uncover the combination of the most consumer-relevant and creative executions."

David Lubars, chairman-chief creative at BBDO North America, remembers meeting Ms. Flanik when she was an account supervisor at Fallon working on United Airlines. "She was a leader who could reduce complex problems down to actionable nuggets," he said. "You could see she was fantastic and would be a star."

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CORRECTION:An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Kristen Flanik's title.

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