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Most Creative People

How Bonin Bough Pivoted From Marketing Guru To Reality TV Host

The host of CNBC's Cleveland Hustles talks revitalizing neighborhoods and his newest obsession: Messaging.

How Bonin Bough Pivoted From Marketing Guru To Reality TV Host

Bonin Bough, host of Cleveland Hustles and author, Txt Me (646) 759-1837

[Photos: Chris Schoonover]

Why did digital-marketing innovator Bonin Bough ditch Triscuits for TV? Snack-food giant Mondelez’s chief media and e-commerce officer left in August to star in CNBC’s Cleveland Hustles, a business-focused reality show created by LeBron James. Bough also recently released a book, Txt Me (646) 759-1837, about how technology is changing modern life (yes, you can message him at that number). "I just started thinking that these moments might not present themselves again," says the former PepsiCo social media guru, who is still doing consulting work but wants to devote more of his energy to content creation. He’s especially intrigued by how Snapchat and other messaging apps are reshaping behavior. "[I wanted] to be at the beginning of a whole new way consumers are going to engage and interact," he says. "I was a part of it, but I was on the other side."

Cleveland Hustles premiered in August and has already been renewed, but Bough says he’s most excited by the first season’s impact on both the participants and the city of Cleveland (part of James’s goal for Hustles was to help revitalize neighborhoods in his hometown). Bough says Hustles has helped create 60 jobs and yielded $2 million in investments for the winning businesses, which include a bagel store and a yoga studio. "At the end of the day, I’m not doing this because I want to be a reality-TV host," says Bough, who also steers several other projects, including an investment firm and the talent incubator Brand U. "It’s because I do actually think this can have a unique and interesting impact."

Best Recent Tech Development

"Messaging. Every piece of ad tech right now that is built for social will be rebuilt for messaging."

Trend He’s Skeptical Of

"There’s no way you can tell me the future of engagement on messaging platforms is bots. In this industry, we quickly go [toward] shiny objects, and right now bots are the shiny object."

Advice He’d Give His Younger Self

"When people say "no," that’s when you know you have something really good."

Greatest Strength

"I think that I’m so afraid of becoming irrelevant that I spend as much time as possible learning new things. I’m a voracious, curious person. I attend every event on the planet."

How He Stays Productive

"You have to surround yourself with people who actually want to get stuff done and do real [things] in the world."

A version of this article appeared in the December 2016/January 2017 issue of Fast Company magazine.

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