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McDonald's Names First U.S. VP of Digital

Move Is Latest in Ailing Chain's Effort to Boost Digital, Sales

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McDonald's named Julia Vander Ploeg as its first VP of digital in the U.S., as part of its continuing efforts to strengthen its digital presence.

Ms. Vander Ploeg will report to the chain's chief digital officer, Atif Rafiq, who joined the company in October. A spokeswoman said Ms. Vander Ploeg will lead "digital strategy efforts on several fronts -- such as enhancing our customers' restaurant experience, more relevant ways to share our story and how customers engage with our brand."

Julia Vander Ploeg
Julia Vander Ploeg

It's not clear whether she will have any influence on the agency roster, but she will work closely with McDonald's U.S. Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Wahl, who joined in January. Mr. Rafiq, Ms. Wahl and Ms. Vander Ploeg are all McDonald's outsiders, an unusual move for the company, given that most senior leaders are longtime employees.

Amid sagging sales, McDonald's has been vocal about its need to improve operations, marketing and invest significantly in digital. The chain earlier this summer opened up an outpost in San Francisco to "better attract and recruit digital talent; buttress business development; and provide the company "a way for us to be more plugged into the flow of ideas," Mr. Rafiq, who is leading that team, said at the time.

"You've all heard on recent earnings calls how we're accelerating our digital presence to elevate our business and Brand," McDonald's said in a statement. Ms. Vander Ploeg "is a seasoned digital executive with vast leadership experience in both the digital and high-tech world." Most recently, she was general manager and senior VP at Ticketmaster's Resale division, where she led strategy, product, marketing, and operations teams, according to her LinkedIn page.

McDonald's is under intense pressure from Wall Street to improve sales. What started as decelerating sales in early 2012 has turned into a decline that could extend into next year. In the second quarter of this year, U.S. sales in stores that have been open for at least a year slipped 1.5% from a year earlier, following a 1.7% decline in the first quarter. Earlier this month it reported global comparable sales in July dropped 2.5% and U.S. comparable sales fell 3.2%.

Earlier today, the chain announced that it was bringing its McCafe coffee to grocery stores.

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