Women to Watch

Women to Watch: Lesya Lysyj, Heineken USA

Kraft Vet Is Working With Wieden to Turn Around Import and Make It a 'Loved Brand' Once Again

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In less than three months, Lesya Lysyj went from marketing candy for Kraft Foods to completing an agency review for the nation's No. 2 imported beer brand. A big change, but not as drastic as it sounds, according to the Heineken USA chief marketing officer.

Leysa Lysyj
Leysa Lysyj

"Both of the categories are lifestyle categories, and they represent a treat in somebody's day," said Ms. Lysyj, who started the job on March 1 after leading Kraft marketing on brands such as Trident and Stride. "You still want to be relatively lighthearted. You want to use humor. You want to keep people entertained."

But Ms. Lysyj's task is a serious one: turning around Heineken, an iconic beer brand that has lost ground to fast-rising imports such as Anheuser-Busch InBev's Stella Artois. Heineken USA is perhaps best known lately for its impatience with agencies, switching creative partners five times on the Heineken brand since 2006. Ms. Lysyj suggested the importer is ready for some stability with its new agency, Wieden & Kennedy, New York, which beat out Publicis in a review completed in May. Working with agencies is a "combination of art and science," she said.

"If we get the strategy right then it's really about bringing art to the process, and you don't always get it right the first time." She added: "The main thing is to have trust. And it goes both ways."

Ms. Lysyj, 48, a native of Canada, earned her MBA at the University of Toronto, where she remembers hoping for an interview with a beer company "because I felt that would be the best job in the world." Instead, she landed at Cadbury, which was acquired by Kraft last year. Tom Christmann, executive creative director at JWT, New York, who worked with Ms. Lysyj on Stride, said the two shared breakfast once a month. She was easy to deal with, he said, but always "about getting the absolute top-notch work."

Now working out of Heineken USA's White Plains, N.Y., headquarters, Ms. Lysyj's next big task is launching a new campaign for long-struggling Heineken Light, while guiding U.S. executions on Heineken's new "Open Your World" global campaign. The beer world will be watching.

"To me it's not only turning the business around, but also bringing Heineken back to being a loved brand," Ms. Lysyj said. "It's had some amazing years with great growth and great campaigns. And I feel like it can do that again."

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