Hudson, Dawn

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Hudson, Dawn


President and Chief Executive Officer of Pepsi-Cola North America

B orn Dawn E. Hudson, November 27, 1957, in Worcester, MA; daughter of Kenneth Dunlap and Nancy (Selin) Hudson; married Bruce Beach (president of an executive search firm), August 31, 1980; children: Morgan (daughter), Kendall (daughter). Education: Graduated Dartmouth College, 1979.

Addresses: Office—700 Anderson Hill Rd., Purchase, NY 10577.


A dvertising account representative, Compton Advertising, 1979-82; product manager, Clairol, 1982-83; account supervisor, management supervisor partner, Tatham-Laird & Kudner, Chicago, 1983-86; advertising representative, DDB Needham, Chicago, 1986-94; executive vice-president and director of client services, DDB Needham Worldwide, New York, 1994-96; managing director, D’Arcy, Masius, Benton & Bowles, 1996; executive vice-president of sales and marketing, Frito-Lay, 1996-98; senior vice president strategy & marketing, Pepsi-Cola North America, 1998-2002; president, Pepsi-Cola North America, 2002-05; president and chief executive officer, Pepsi-Cola North America, 2005—.

Awards: B*East award, American Advertising Federation; twice awarded Top 50 Marketers, Advertising Age; Hall of Achievement, American Advertising Federation.


I n 2005, Dawn Hudson was listed at number 41 on Fortune’s list of America’s 50 most powerful female chief executives. As chief executive officer and president of Pepsi-Cola North America, Hudson has focused her passion for advertising and her skillful ability to judge consumer demand into an amazing career. She rose through the ranks of some of the nation’s top advertising agencies, working on challenging and high-profile accounts such as Clairol, Proctor and Gamble, and Maybelline. Keith Reinhard, chairman of DDB Worldwide, one of Hudson’s previous employers, told Thom Forbes of Advertising Age, “Dawn gets it . She was way ahead of the curve in terms of what everybody is now talking about—the need for thinking about a brand in its totality.”

Born in 1957, Hudson is the oldest of three daughters who grew up in Massachusetts. Extremely competitive and driven, Hudson competed in tennis while growing up while also nurturing a desire to follow a different path from that of her parents. She explained to Constance L. Hays of the New York Times, “You want to chart your own course.”

Hudson’s course led her to attend Dartmouth College. The campus had recently been opened to women and at the time she was one of 100 women on a campus that was 95 percent male. Her experience at Dartmouth led to her believe in the power of networking and maintaining connections. She believes in using her network and encourages other women to assist each other by providing feedback and mentoring.

In 1979, as she was about to graduate from school and was trying to figure out what direction to take at that point, a friend encouraged her to apply for a job with Compton Advertising who was on campus that day. Hudson quickly put together her resume and ran over to interview. She was hired and began working at Compton doing commercials. She spent three years on the advertising end before she was promoted to brand manager for Clairol, a position she was given in part because she had taken French classes in college.

After several years with Compton, Hudson ended up moving to Chicago to work with Tatham-Laird & Kudner. Her primary account was working with Proctor and Gamble, a company she had also done work for at Compton. In 1986, she moved over to work with DDB Needham where eventually she rose to the position of managing partner. Her projects there included work for General Mills, May-belline, and Ralston Purina. In 1994, a desire to be closer to family back East and a promotion brought Hudson to DDB Needham’s New York office where she took the position of executive vice president and client services director.

In 1996, she was offered a position with the advertising agency D’Arcy, Masius, Benton, and Bowles where she was named managing director. By that time she had formed a relationship with Frito-Lay, having worked on a retooling of their advertising campaigns in the early 1990s. She was passionate then about the direction the campaign should go, which was counter to what most of the team was recommending. She felt so strongly that she ended up putting in an urgent call to the president of Frito-Lay at the time, Steve Reinemund. He listened and then directed the team to follow her suggestions which led to the successful campaign for Rold Gold starring Jason Alexander of the sitcom Seinfeld. Reinemund explained to Advertising Age’s Forbes, “She felt very passionate about what we needed to do and she was clearly right.” The ad campaign was responsible for moving Frito-Lay’s market share up from eleven percent to 30 percent.

Her work made an impression on Reinemund and in October of 1996 she was offered a position with Frito-Lay as head of sales and marketing. She jumped at the opportunity. Within two years she moved over to Pepsi-Cola North America, taking on the role of senior vice-president of marketing and strategy. Her work in that role included overseeing the “Joy of Cola“ campaign which featured pop singer Britney Spears. She also had a hand in introducing two new drinks to the market: Mountain Dew Code Red and Pepsi Twist.

Hudson is always on the move. She finds time for leisure activities like reading, skiing, playing tennis, and going to the zoo with her two daughters, Morgan and Kendall. Her husband, Bruce Beach, who spent many years at home with their two daughters is also the president of an executive search firm. Hudson believes strongly that it is necessary to lead a well-rounded life. She explained to Hays in the New York Times interview, “Part of being a good marketer is just being a regular person.” Two losses in her life may have brought home this idea of balance between work and home. When she was 23 her father died of a heart attack and five years later her younger sister died from congenital heart disease. She told Forbes in the Advertising Age interview, “To lose two people in your five-member family in a five-year time frame, you’ve got to look at the glass as half-full and keep pressing on.”

In 2002, Hudson was named president of Pepsi-Cola North America. Her responsibilities included marketing, sales, and strategic direction as well as building and maintaining relationships with bottlers and the food-service industry. The new level of accountability was a welcome challenge to Hudson, who says she thrives on competition. In 2004, talking to Forbes in Advertising Age, she said she was most excited about finding a way to weave together Pepsi Cola’s three branches—Pepsi’s beverage operations, Frito-Lay, and Quaker food service—into a strong leader of the food and beverage industry.

In 2005, Hudson was awarded another promotion and took on the additional title of chief executive officer (CEO) for Pepsi-Cola NorthAmerica.As CEO she was now responsible for all beverages under the Pepsi umbrella. The following year she played a part in Pepsi’s acquisition of Izze Beverage, a small company based in Boulder, Colorado, whose fruit-juice-based carbonated beverages had become very popular.

By 2006, Hudson’s rise in the industry had been acknowledged by her place on Fortune magazine’s list of the 50 most powerful chief executive women in the United States. Two years in a row she was listed in Forbes magazine as one of the top 100 most powerful women. Her skill at understanding target audiences as well as the products has served her well throughout her career. In response to peers who think she somehow knows what’s going on in the minds of her target audiences, Hudson replied to Kate MacArthur of Advertising Age, “You might find me on a snowboard, but I’ll never say I know what a teenager is thinking.”


Advertising Age, June 26, 2000, p. S18; November 8, 2004, pp. P5-P8.

New York Times, January 31, 1999, p. 2.

—Eve Hermann

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