Snacks & Candy

'Dunking in the Dark'

Why Bonin Bough of Mondelēz considers his biggest success to be a failure

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- The "you can still dunk in the dark" tweet just four minutes into last year's Super Bowl blackout heralded Oreo's arrival as a nimble online marketer. As a result, Bonin Bough, the global head of media for snack maker Mondelēz International, has become the rock star of real-time marketing, according to a Fast Company profile.

Nonin Bough Mondelez snacks candy (CSP Daily News / Convenience Stores)

Oreo needs to "move at the speed of culture," he said at an Advertising Club breakfast in New York, like a preacher trying to convert those who haven't yet been reborn in the real-time religion. His speech traverses topics as far-flung as bionic limbs, Jay Z, and hacking. He's got a book coming out next spring in which he explores digital's influence on everything from memory to sex.

Bough spent nearly a decade building digital practices at PR firms and then became the digital chief at PepsiCo. He got the Mondelēz job in 2012 (when it was still part of Kraft Foods), when CMO Mary Beth West realized that impulse-buy brands like Oreo are now competing for consumers' attention against apps and not just other salt-sugar-fat confections. If a person waiting in line at a convenience store is going to spend an extra dollar in the spur of the moment, she's now more likely to buy a power-up in the mobile game she's staring at than pick up a sleeve of cookies from the rack near the register.

Most global media heads at big consumer brands have a traditional TV advertising background. But Mondelēz wanted someone to navigate the increasingly complex maze of digital channels. "I can get anyone to negotiate a contract," West told the magazine. "I need somebody who believes that [digital] is the future."

Mondelēz's bet is that if brands like Oreo can lead the culture now, the company will be better prepared for a technological upheaval it sees as inevitable, a disruption that will affect what kinds of ads go where on some sort of real-time basis.

"On one hand, Dunk in the Dark was a huge success, but in reality, it was a huge failure," Bough told Fast Company. "Imagine if at that moment we had been able to programmatically change every piece of media that we were buying to turn on the Oreo ad."

Oreo's Super Bowl tweet-heard-round-the-world was so successful that no one paid much attention to Oreo's standard-issue Super Bowl ad that was produced months in advance and purchased for something like $4 million, said the report.

"Imagine a marketer who can create video in real time and buy [ad space] in real time. It was at that moment we realized that there was a bigger game that we weren't prepared to play," he said.

Click here to view the full Fast Company profile of Bonin Bough.

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