McDonald's Names First VP-Customer Officer

In New Post, Ehle Reunited With McDonald's CMO Deborah Wahl

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McDonald's continues to make changes in its marketing department, tapping Fred Ehle as its first VP-customer officer.

In the new role, Mr. Ehle will report directly to U.S. marketing chief Deborah Wahl. A spokeswoman, in confirming the appointment, said Mr. Ehle "will be focused on customer insights and enabling us to engage with our customers in a more powerful and relevant manner." Among his duties will be improving "McDonald's overall customer experience and driving segment-driven customer experiences under the McDonald's brand," she said.

Ms. Wahl has made significant changes in the marketing department since she arrived in March from PulteHomes, which is Mr. Ehle's most recent employer. Over the last six months, Ms. Wahl has reorganized the marketing department by reworking structures to be organized by demographic -- say, millennials or families -- rather than by product.

She has also shaken up a number of McDonald's processes, taking on more direct oversight than her predecessor Neil Golden in areas such as agency relationships and partnerships among McDonald's and brands. One of the biggest departures since her arrival has been 14-year McDonald's veteran Marlena Peleo-Lazar, U.S. chief creative officer, who left this month.

Given that millennials are the biggest target in the fast-food industry, it's believed that at least some of Mr. Ehle's focus will be on appealing to the millennial customer, a difficult demographic for the chain to attract in recent years.

According to his LinkedIn, Mr. Ehle was VP-brand management at homebuilder Pulte and is an agency veteran, having worked at VSA Partners, Leo Burnett and FCB, among other shops.

Other recent executive changes for McDonald's in the U.S. include the appointment of Mike Andres to president, succeeding Jeff Stratton, who occupied the role for less than two years. The chain also named Julia Vander Ploeg its first U.S. VP-digital. Ms. Vander Ploeg will report to Atif Rafiq, the chain's first chief digital officer, who joined in October, but she'll also work closely with Ms. Wahl.

Ms. Wahl's moves are part of a larger effort by McDonald's to improve its business and fight declining sales. The chain's global same-store sales last year grew 0.2%, while U.S. same-store sales declined 0.2% and comparable guest counts declined 1.6%. Executives in July reiterated their commitment to improving operations woes and trimming the menu, announcing that it is taking the next 18 months to rebrand the company. It will also work toward improving marketing and investing in digital.

To that end, Leo Burnett recently won a pitch for rebranding ideas. The chain also last week announced a partnership with Apple Pay for easier mobile ordering.

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