Nearly a decade after leaving McDonald's Corp., Brad Ball is back on the brand as an agency executive, bringing his career with and around the Golden Arches full circle. The former McDonald's senior VP-chief marketing officer turned entertainment executive has joined Moroch Partners, one of the fast feeder's agencies, as senior partner to open a Los Angeles office.
There, the onetime Warner Bros. executive will lead Moroch's expansion in digital and emerging media and branded entertainment using his most recent experience as principal and owner of Ball Entertainment Group, a Los Angeles-based branded-entertainment agency.
As part of the equity partnership, Mr. Ball, 56, brings to the marriage his existing client base, which includes Headplay (a personal-cinema system that launches in 2007), confection maker Adams & Brooks and Pure Fishing tackle company.
Purchased for a dollar in 1981 from Lowe Runkle by Chairman Tom Moroch, along with partners Bill Farmer and Pat Kempf, the Dallas-based agency now has 27 offices and capitalized billings of $194 million. Among its clients are movie studios Dreamworks SKG, Sony Pictures Classics, and Walt Disney Co.'s Buena Vista, as well as other marketers such as Verizon Wireless, Tia Rosa and Uniden.
There are several reasons why the move made sense, said Mr. Kempf, Moroch CEO. "One is the great fit. Two is the guy is amazingly connected, so that's not going to hurt. Third is digital: This is going to accelerate it. To me one of the greatest pieces of all is he is an amazing hybrid [of] a great strategy guy and a great creative."
Mr. Ball's first experience with the McDonald's business came at the beginning of his career, when he was an account manager-and later partner-at Davis, Ball & Columbatto (the shop now known as Davis-Elen Advertising). After 20 years of running a variety of McDonald's western regional co-op accounts, he joined the fast feeder as chief marketer.
At McDonald's Mr. Ball made headlines as a co-architect of its global marketing alliance with Walt Disney Co., and he was responsible for shifting the ad account from Leo Burnett back to DDB Worldwide and the resulting 1997 ad campaign, "Did Somebody Say McDonald's?" He also brought in Fallon Worldwide, which created an ultimately too edgy Arch Deluxe campaign with Ronald McDonald. One of his more infamous moves was the "Campaign 55" launch, which promoted 55› signature sandwiches including the Big Mac. "Not everything was a home run," he said. "I would have been far better served sticking to ... long-term value building" as opposed to pushing a short-term pricing tactic.
He added: "I like to push the edges. I learned to hold my ground. Next time, it will be different. "
Mr. Ball left McDonald's in 1998 to become president-domestic theatrical marketing for Warner Bros., where he oversaw the release of 90 films, including "You've Got Mail," "The Matrix" and "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."
McDonald's is greeting its prodigal son with open arms. "Brad Ball is a savvy marketing executive with excellent credentials," Bill Lamar Jr., chief marketing officer for McDonald's USA, said in a statement. "Brad is joining Moroch to help them grow their entertainment-related business. ... We welcome Brad's return to the McDonald's system."
It's been rumored, incidentally, that Mr. Lamar has been eyeing a move to Moroch. ("There's no there there," a McDonald's spokesman said).
Mr. Moroch, too, said he'd heard the talk, and his response points out just how all-in-the-family the Moroch/McDonald's relationship has become. Noting that Mr. Lamar's son, Andrew, works for the agency as an account executive in Atlanta, Mr. Moroch said that after he heard the rumor he jokingly asked the elder Mr. Lamar whether he has any problem working for his son.