Bonin Bough talks his new hosting gig, the future of messaging apps and today’s media landscape

Bonin Bough has left his post as Mondelez’s chief media and ecommerce officer at a time when the very title he helped to pioneer has found itself catapulted into the spotlight, thanks to the ANA’s recent recommendation that brands implement “chief media officer” positions in the wake of the ongoing rebate discussion in the US.

Bonin Bough
Bonin Bough

While Bough is now bringing his marketing prowess to the streets of Ohio as host of CNBC’s “Cleveland Hustles,” a show produced by LeBron James that pairs local entrepreneurs with investors to help them kickstart their small business ideas, he still plans to remain a part of the industry fabric in an advisory capacity, serving as an advisor to up-and-coming platforms like local video-sharing app Centric.

“Media is challenged right now because consumers are going so many places, but at the same time, it’s the most vibrant time we’ve ever seen” he said. “When a platform like Pokémon Go can have more users than Twitter, that means that anything is really possible.”

Because of this fragmentation, Bough said that the title of chief marketing officer is “probably the most important role for organizations to put into the business” right now, particularly because brands need people who can think critically about how to deploy dollars in today’s ever-changing and complicated media landscape.

At Mondelez, Bough helped usher in a new era at the snack conglomerate, transforming the company’s media arm through agency consolidation, digital prioritization and finding fresh ways to reach consumers. Under his leadership, the company transformed into a content creator of sorts, partnering with the likes of BuzzFeed and Fox to give consumers content that they actually want to watch. For example, earlier this year, Mondelez’s Stride Gum brand sponsored a live TV event on Fox called "Heaven Sent," which featured a skydiver jumping from a plane at 25,000 feet without a parachute.

While Bough remains optimistic about the future of media and the role brands can play within it, his biggest gripe within the industry is that he thinks advertisers aren’t taking messaging seriously, an area that he expects to be bigger than social media – so much so that he even wrote an entire book about it and included his phone number on the cover.

“I’m blown away that we’re not talking about messaging,” he said. “I’m actually ashamed that the advertising industry hasn’t even focused on it. I’m ashamed because I thought we had come so far in terms of understanding that technology is a driver of consumer engagement. There’s very little that is servicing that space or is speaking about that space, and that is the next growth engine for organizations.”

Bough thinks that the industry is too consumed with chat bots, something he argues is only one piece of the messaging puzzle. Seeing as eMarketer predicts that four out of 10 mobile phone users will actively use Facebook Messenger this year – and that’s just one messenger app – Bough thinks that marketers should be focusing their resources on how to communicate with consumers in a one-to-one capacity, a form of communication that will be different from social media since interactions won’t be public.

Bough noted that platforms like Snaps and SuperPhone, the latter of which lets musicians send personalized messages and offers to fans via text, are helping to move the conversation forward. But he thinks there’s still a long way to go.

“We have to learn a whole new way to communicate with consumers,” he said. “The bottom line is, if this is where consumer attention is going, which it is, this is where consumer brands have to go.”

Post-Mondelez, Bough said he plans to focus on bringing his big business expertise to small businesses, something that he’s become increasingly interested in over the past year while filming “Cleveland Hustles,” which premiered earlier this month.

“The last eight months have been pretty cathartic, and I just had a realization that there’s another stage of my life that I should be potentially focused on,” he said. “If we can create national brands in neighborhoods in Cleveland and hopefully neighborhoods across the country and the world, we can actually create real job creation at a scale that we’ve never seen before. What I’ve learned is that many of these small businesses can benefit from big business thinking.”

Moving forward, he said he hopes to focus on motivating the corporate world to lend their expertise and experiences to small businesses.

“Big business has a huge opportunity to offer not capital, not money, not job creation, but expertise. How do you help entrepreneurs think bigger? For me, that’s a passion and a mission I’m on right now,” he said.