But that doesn't mean Mr. Zwain hasn't been doing prep work. For the past 18 months, he has been part of an executive training program at McDonald's, following the same path as the man who hired him, Alan Feldman, president of McDonald's USA.
Mr. Zwain, 46, joined the fast-food leader in 1997 from Boston Chicken, where he was president-CEO of the troubled Boston Market chain for less than two years. Before that, he logged in 22 years in the restaurant industry, rising through the ranks at Pizza Hut to become president-CEO of then-parent PepsiCo Restaurants International.
"He has outstanding marketing abilities, significant industry leadership experience and a great passion for the restaurant industry and McDonald's," said Mr. Feldman, who was a colleague of Mr. Zwain 12 years ago at Pizza Hut.
Mr. Zwain said he plans to stress local marketing through the chain's 12,500 U.S. outlets, while protecting the McDonald's brand and nurturing relations with sometimes fractious franchisees.
Mr. Zwain will oversee an estimated $600 million media budget, and all domestic marketing and advertising activities.
No big changes are expected for now in personnel or agency relationships. Mr. Zwain said he has already met with Keith Reinhard, chairman-CEO of DDB Needham Worldwide, whose Chicago office is McDonald's lead agency. Mr. Reinhard "has very good vision to incorporate where we need to go with the brand," Mr. Zwain said.
Perhaps as a sign of continuity, McDonald's board last week promoted R.J. Milano, who has been in charge of planning the chain's annual marketing calendar, from assistant VP-marketing to VP-marketing.
Mr. Zwain's appointment came after a 10-month search in which several prominent industry marketing executives were rumored to have turned down offers.
There was a lack of interest in the job, according to several observers, because the former national brand-building post has become more fragmented as the chain looks to local marketing to build sales (AA, Jan. 18).
Talks with Mr. Zwain about the job began in earnest a few weeks ago, executives said.
Mr. Feldman, whose expertise is in finance and who served as interim marketing chief, said the search time wasn't wasted.
"It was a great responsibility for me to be chief marketing officer for the last months," he said. "I learned about our relationships with our agencies and our co-ops. It was very helpful in shaping my view of what are the right ingredients for success in this position."
Now a new search begins, to replace VP-Advertising Roy Bergold, 54, who plans to retire after 30 years with the company.
The new McDonald's USA marketing chief already seems passionate about the job. The day after Mr. Zwain's appointment was announced, he left a 7:30 a.m. voice-mail message for Cheryl Berman, chief creative officer at Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, McDonald's roster agency for children's advertising.
In it, the father of five enthused about the importance of marketing McDonald's to children. But he was cut off by the machine because he used up the allotted time.
"He is so interested in how we market to them, and how we take the brand