4 misses and 1 big hit

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I celebrated my birthday recently, and I received a surprise card from God. We know Him as George Burns. He said for my present I could do over as many as five marketing decisions that were made during my tenure at McDonald's. So I took Him up on it.

Here are my four, and one I would not do over.

OPNAD: First is the Operator National Advertising Council. It was a great idea to have a voluntary co-op of owners who contribute a percentage of sales to national advertising. It started as an advisory board to the marketing department, then made decisions on media spending and, by the time I left in 2000, was practically running the department.

We spent more time working on presentations to sell OPNAD on the plan than thinking about or executing the plan.

Do-over: Use the committee as advisers and let the professionals do their jobs.

PROMOTIONS: Second is the unhealthy reliance on promotion. As the years went on, we got to the point where if there wasn't a promotion running every day, we looked for one.

Advertising suffered greatly, and that great stuff we used to do was relegated to a very few occasions.

Do-over: We know that advertising works, so let the store people do their jobs, selling hamburgers and serving the customer, instead of trying to explain a complicated promotion to every customer.

BUDGETING: Third is budgeting. The budget process for the marketing department became a game of moving money from here to there to do what we wanted and needed to do.

It became the old shell game. Try to find the budget under which shell.

Do-over: Cost out the approved marketing plan and then draw up a wish list in order of priority, with a cutoff point corresponding to the number of people in the department and, therefore, the number of projects that can get done. If the rest is important, add the people to get it done.

AD AGENCIES: Fourth is the number of agencies. The number grew to ponderous proportions and then an attempt was made to reduce locally, while we added national agencies on a business and project basis.

Instead of everyone cooperating, we had agencies constantly sniping for the other guy's business. And so, a waste of time and effort ensued.

Do-over: One national agency responsible for everything, including ethnic and promotion. They can use any resources they wish, but this one agency has total accountability for all marketing programs.

THE ONE I WOULDN'T CHANGE: I stayed in creative almost my entire career. It cost me promotions because there was no title to promote me to, except my boss's. I never got above VP for 20 years, but I loved every minute I spent working on McDonald's advertising.

No regrets.

Mr. Bergold retired from McDonald's Corp. in 2000 as VP-chief creative officer. He spent 31 years at McDonald's, 23 of them as its advertising chief. He now operates an equestrian center in Payson, Ariz.