That time a single Oreo tweet owned the Super Bowl XLVII blackout? That was B. Bonin Bough’s idea. And when Gatorade launched its real-time “Mission Control?” Yup, Bough again.
As chief media and e-commerce officer of food giant Mondelez International, Bough is an advertising titan who’s overseen billions in marketing and ad dollars for some of the world’s biggest brands. But this past summer, the tireless, whip-smart marketing whiz outdid even himself by creating a once-in-a-lifetime publicity stunt even most daredevils considered simply insane: He paid professional skydiver Luke Aikins, a grizzled dude with 16,000-plus jumps to his name (and a credit on Iron Man 3) to leap out of a plane at 25,000 feet without a parachute, hoping (and, we’d guess, praying) he’d land on a net suspended 200 feet above the California desert.
And of course the entire spectacle, to benefit Mondelez’s Stride gum brand, aired live in an hourlong TV special.
“The concept for the brand was ‘Mad Intense,’ and what could be more mad intense than a guy jumping out of a plane without a chute?” says Bough, who freely admits he was nervous as hell about the stunt till Aikins, barreling toward Earth at 120 mph, turned over on his back at the last second and landed safely in the 100-by-100-foot net.
“At the end of the day, we made history,” Bough says.
But the unrivaled master of grabbing the public’s attention isn’t just an ad king—he’s forayed into publishing and made waves there, too. For example, on the cover of his book Txt Me—which came out in August and explores how texting has revolutionized everything from youth rebellion to political engagement to sexual behavior—he printed his actual phone number so readers could give him one-on-one feedback.
Bough’s also stepped into the TV spotlight as host of a CNBC series produced by LeBron James, Cleveland Hustles, a sort of Shark Tank-meets-Our Town in which he mentors local entrepreneurs hoping to achieve their dreams in Believeland—the nickname Cavaliers fans have bestowed on their city.
“Small businesses need to think bigger,” Bough says. “Most people find millions of reasons why they can’t do something. Very few people say, ‘I can, and I’m gonna find out how.’”