Mondelez Marketers Learn How to Speak Creative

Imagine a situation in which clients willingly sit in a room and listen to an ad creative in his thick glasses and statement sneakers tell them how a creative’s mind works, how they need to learn to effectively communicate with creatives and how to be a better clients.

It may sound like some ad creative’s wishful fever dream, but it’s become a reality at Mondelez.

The international conglomerate that owns Oreo, Nabisco and Trident, among others, realizes that the stereotypical relationship between client and agency doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, so antagonistic. That’s why it has created “Getting to Creative,” a special two-day workshop for senior marketers on how to be better clients – and get the best work they can out of creatives.

“Great creative rolls downhill, so we want our people to be champions of great work and great relationships – and understand the missing links to great creative,” said Karen Adams, senior director of global marketing at Mondelez.

Adams has an agency background — she was at Y&R for 13 years as svp and global account director — and understands that clients could use some education on how to communicate with ad creatives for the best results. That’s why — with the help of her colleagues at Mondelez, Deb Giampoli, director of agency relations, Dana Anderson, svp of communications and strategy, and Jill Baskin, senior director of marketing communications — Adams developed “Getting to Good Creative” last year with the hopes that it would become a regular occurrence at Mondelez.

The two-day program comprises different presentations and workshop sessions with creative directors from Mondelez’s agencies. For the first “Getting to Great Creative” workshop, which took place last August in New Jersey,  Mondelez gathered about 30 of its senior marketers from across its various brands to get together to learn how to be better clients.

As Adams explained, the first part of the program involves getting everyone to come to a common understanding of what they think is great creative.

“We have them bring great examples of creative that they like and tell why they like it so that we can establish what great creative is,” explained Adams.

The next steps focus on how to get to that elusive “great creative.” One of the most important factors is building strong relationships with agencies and understanding how creatives think and work, which is why Adams brings in creative directors who speak about the client’s role in getting to good work.

Nina DiSesa, former chairman of McCann Erikson New York and currently a creative consultant R3:JLB, ran a workshop called “The Dirty Little Secrets of the Advertising Business” and another session about how clients can learn to talk to creatives and get them to understand the business goals and still get great work.

DiSesa has done these kinds of workshops before when she was at McCann and sees them as invaluable. From DiSesa’s point of view, what most clients don’t understand is how to communicate with “looney toon” creatives.

“They don’t realize how scared creative people are,” said DiSesa. “Creatives come across as cocky, but clients don’t understand that beneath that is a uniform level of fear on so many different levels. Using your wits for a living is scary, and clients don’t get that, no matter how many times I say it.”

Creatives may or may not be scared, but they seem receptive to what Mondelez is trying to do.

“It’s really cool,” said Kevin Brady, group creative director at Droga5, who led a session for the workshop. “They don’t have to do this; they can just say ‘impress me, agency,’ but instead, this is an opportunity for clients and agencies to talk openly and frankly and empathize with each other.”

Other topics covered in the workshop include how to honestly communicate to creatives when work isn’t good, how to harness creatives’ imagination to still meet business goals, and how to make sure briefs are good experiences for everyone.

“We have to spend time to get to know our agency partners just like we get to know our supply chain people and our sales people,” said Adams. “We have to establish that mutual respect for each other and understand the demands that a creative person has at their job and have them understand the demands and goals that marketers have.”

Mondelez is doing its second “Getting to Good Creative” workshop with its marketers in China next week and another in Ukraine in December.

At the moment, Mondelez appears to be the only large company doing this kind of in-house education. Campbell’s Adam Kmiec said that the soup brand does not have this kind of workshop but thinks it’s a great topic. General Electric’s Linda Boff similarly said she thought it was a “great practice” but that GE doesn’t have anything similar because many on her team are ex-agency, which “probably helps elicit good work.”

“I think it’s a brilliant thing to do, and I wish more clients would do that,” said DiSesa. “If they understand the creative and strategic process inside the agency, they might get better at controlling it and getting what they want.”

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