Blockbuster Fills Vacant CMO Post

Rebeca Johnson Formerly Led Marketing Efforts at Brinker

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Blockbuster might be without an agency of record, but it now has a chief marketer.
Rebeca 'Becky' Johnson
Rebeca 'Becky' Johnson

The Dallas-based video chain appointed Rebeca "Becky" Johnson, former chief marketing and global branding officer at casual-dining giant Brinker International, to the role. Ms. Johnson has also worked at PepsiCo's Frito-Lay division and KFC Corp. Ms. Johnson, who began her career on the agency side at Ogilvy & Mather, takes a slot left vacant after the prior CMO, Curt Andrews, left about six months ago.

'Proven ability'
Ms. Johnson's "expertise in consumer insights, history of successful marketing/brand development and proven ability to redefine the customer experience will be a tremendous asset as we continue to transform Blockbuster to offer consumers convenient access to media entertainment," Jim Keyes, Blockbuster chairman-CEO, said in a statement.

Blockbuster's last ad agency of record was Southfield, Mich.-based independent shop Doner, which the retailer parted ways with last year after a decade-long relationship. The movie-rental giant then undertook a search for a new agency partner and invited numerous agencies to pitch. Several shops presented work earlier this year, but at the end of that process Blockbuster opted to go without an agency of record.

In the interim, the chain turned to a little-known Omnicom Group entity called Component Group. Falling under the umbrella of TracyLocke, Dallas, it is comprised of four specialist agency-cum-marketing consultancies -- The Launch Point, Uproar Marketing, Encircle Marketing and U30 Group -- and led by President Bob Chimbel.

Running on shifting ground
How Ms. Johnson and her marketing team plan to negotiate agency relationships going forward remains to be seen.

Certainly Ms. Johnson will have a tough road, as her appointment comes amid a rocky patch for the retailer. With market share declining at the hands of rivals such as Netflix, Blockbuster last year hired Mr. Keyes to turn the chain into a full-service media-delivery company. Since then, he has slashed costs and remade the company's portfolio of stores, shuttering more than 200 locations and downsizing or remodeling the rest.

An unsolicited bid for electronics retailer Circuit City was to have furthered Mr. Keyes' goals by creating "a game-changing retail concept with a sustainable competitive advantage." Instead, Blockbuster said last week that after completing its initial due diligence process, it would abandon its acquisition strategy for the struggling retailer thanks to current market conditions.

Digital disappointment
Ms. Johnson will also likely be charged with revamping the chain's overall media strategy. In 2007, Blockbuster spent $97 million on U.S. measured media, with the bulk of the spending online, according to TNS Media Intelligence data. But, earlier this year, Mr. Keyes told Advertising Age that online advertising is expensive and not "the most effective use of our dollars."

In the most recent quarter, ended April 6, the retailer saw net income of $45.4 million, compared to a loss of $49 million during the year-ago period. Total revenues were down 5.4% to $1.39 billion, while sales at stores open at least a year were up 2.9%.
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