General Mills Global CMO Ivan Pollard leaves amid organizational overhaul
General Mills announced restructuring actions that include the departure of Global Chief Marketing Officer Ivan Pollard, who pushed brands such as Cheerios, Häagen-Dazs and Wheaties to make bolder moves during his nearly four-year tenure.
The company does not plan to fill his role.
Pollard’s departure is part of changes being made to the company’s leadership team. General Mills on Thursday announced it “approved restructuring actions designed to better align its organizational structure and resources with its strategic initiatives.” But that statement, issued in a filing with U.S. regulators, did not go into the details of those restructuring moves.
“I’m incredibly grateful to Ivan for his tireless pursuit of marketing excellence at General Mills,” CEO and Chairman Jeff Harmening said in a memo to the company that was shared with Ad Age. “He has been the core architect in building a connected community of marketers around the world and a critical part of evolving our marketing toward bolder brand building — a touchstone of our Accelerate strategy — all the while championing our people and our consumers.”
General Mills created the global CMO role in December 2016, hiring Pollard in mid-2017 to fill the post. Pollard, a marketer with a background in media planning and a physics degree, was tasked with leading the establishment of a global marketing and media planning function.
“Ivan accomplished what he set out to do, serving as the core architect in building a connected community of marketers around the world,” General Mills stated. “He was critical in evolving our marketing towards bolder brand building. We are not looking to replace this role. Boldly building brands remains a core part of our business strategy and will continue to be a strong focus across our portfolio of beloved brands.”
Pollard joined General Mills just months after a massive creative agency review. During his tenure the company once again rethought how it works with its agencies, frustrating some in the process who took issue with details such as payment terms. General Mills works with a variety of agencies, including Anomaly, which has done work ranging from TV spots for Cheerios to launching remote-controlled Lil Yachts for fans of Lil Yachty and Reese’s Puffs cereal.
“We’re on a journey to ensure that our brands stand out more than ever and that they’re infused with purpose and meaning,” Pollard said during an investor presentation in February.
He said he aimed for the company to bring its brands’ stories to life with “remarkably modern magical marketing.”
Pollard joined General Mills in July 2017, months after the departures of CMO Ann Simonds and Chief Creative Officer Michael Fanuele.
He moved from the agency world to the client side when he joined Coca-Cola, where he was senior VP of strategic marketing for Coca-Cola North America. He was previously a global partner at Naked Communications, a connections planning company, and held media roles at agencies including Wieden + Kennedy and Boase Massimi Pollitt, which later became DDB London. Pollard holds a bachelor of science in physics from the University of Nottingham and was an Ad Age Media Maven in 2013.
General Mills, like other packaged food marketers, benefited during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic. With people preparing and eating more of their meals at home, brands such as Cheerios and Pillsbury were strong sellers. General Mills' sales rose 8% in the first nine months of its current fiscal year. In March, General Mills predicted its fiscal year 2021 sales would rise about 3.5%, as it laps the tremendous growth seen during the early months of the pandemic.
Also on Thursday, rival Kellogg Co. raised its outlook for 2021 due to strength in the first quarter. Kellogg now expects its sales to be about flat this year, after previously expecting a decline of about 1%.