Mary Dillon Leaves Global CMO Post at McDonald's

After Five Years, Departs Chain to Head U.S. Cellular as President-CEO

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- One of marketing's most coveted jobs is open: global CMO for McDonald's.

Mary Dillon
Mary Dillon
Mary Dillon is vacating that position at the fast-feeder, where, during her five-year tenure, the chain continued its historic turnaround, diversified its menu and grew market share hand over fist. She leaves McDonald's, which was the world's 14th largest global advertiser with $1.97 billion in measured-media spending in 2008, according to Ad Age's DataCenter, to become president-CEO of Chicago-based U.S. Cellular. She replaces John E. Rooney, who is retiring.

McDonald's spokesman Walt Riker said the search is on for Ms. Dillon's replacement, though he declined to say whether a search firm has been retained, or if it will be limited to external candidates. The chain did not immediately name an interim CMO to stand in for Ms. Dillon, 48, who assumes her post at U.S. Cellular June 1.

In the meantime, he cited Dean Barrett, senior VP-global marketing, Neil Golden, U.S. chief marketer, and Marlena Peleo-Lazar, chief creative, McDonald's USA, as examples of the chain's deep bench of talent. "Our experienced marketing team is in place," he said, and they "will continue the mission of moving into the World Cup," and other promotions, including a global happy meal promotion for the final "Shrek" movie this month.

The chain, which spent nearly $2 billion in measured media during 2008, has three primary longtime global agency relationships: DDB, Leo Burnett and TBWA. While at McDonald's, Ms. Dillon worked to foster agency collaboration, commanding alignment on a single idea, and then sending shops out to develop their own executions. Last month, Ms. Dillon unveiled a refreshed version of the chain's iconic, 7-year-old "I'm Lovin' It" campaign at McDonald's biennial global conference.

Prior to McDonald's, Ms. Dillon was president of Quaker Foods. Those who know her have predicted she would eventually leave to run her own company. "Mary has the rich consumer marketing background and strong operational experience to lead U.S. Cellular to superior long-term growth and success," U.S. Cellular Chairman LeRoy T. Carlson Jr. said in a statement. "Mary's integrity and passion for the customer are an excellent fit for the company."

Ms. Dillon could not be reached for comment.

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