Darden CMO Defects to Ruby Tuesday

Advertising for Olive Garden, Red Lobster Currently Consolidated at Grey

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Darden's chief marketing officer, J.J. Buettgen, has left the company to become president-CEO of Ruby Tuesday.

J.J. Buettgen
J.J. Buettgen

The company, which is the parent of large restaurant chains such as Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, has not named a replacement for Mr. Buettgen. "We understand and respect J.J.'s desire to lead an organization and we wish him well in his new endeavor," said Drew Madsen, president-chief operating officer of Darden, in a statement.

Mr. Buettgen had spent a number of years at Darden. He joined Olive Garden in 1994 as director-marketing, and was promoted to VP-marketing. He left Darden in 1998 and returned in 2004. He was named CMO in 2011.

He begins at Ruby Tuesday in December, replacing Sandy Beall, who announced his retirement earlier this year.

The move leaves vacant what was a relatively new role at Darden. When the company created the CMO position two years ago, it intended to establish a marketing structure that promoted more integration between the chains as well as companywide growth.

In its statement, Darden noted that during Mr. Buettgen's tenure, "J.J. helped successfully implement that structure while building a solid foundation of marketing talent across our brands. Led by strong marketing leaders, we're confident that our brand teams are well-positioned to continue driving their respective growth strategies."

The bulk of Darden's advertising is at WPP's Grey -- the shop handles Red Lobster, Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse. It's unclear whether Mr. Buettgen's departure will affect the company's agency relationships.

Last year Darden spent about $194 million in U.S. measured media on Olive Garden and about $137 million on Red Lobster, according to Kantar Media.

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