JCPenney CMO Debra Berman Departs Company

Former Kraft Exec Had Been Charged With Revitalizing Beleaguered Brand

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Debra Berman
Debra Berman

Debra Berman, J.C. Penney's chief marketing officer, is departing the company, effective immediately.

Until a replacement is named, Kirk Waidelich, VP-marketing strategy, will temporarily oversee customer strategy, media and marketing integration, while Lynne Bartron, VP-marketing strategy, will temporarily oversee creative, production and operations, publicity and partnerships, said a J.C. Penney spokeswoman.

J.C. Penney named Ms. Berman senior VP-marketing in August 2013 and promoted her to CMO last year. She joined the company from Kraft Foods Group, where she was VP-marketing strategy and engagement. Less than three months after her appointment she brought in a whole new agency team, including Doner, EVB and Victors & Spoils.

Ms. Berman was charged with revitalizing the brand by returning to its pre-Ron Johnson roots. During Mr. Johnson's tenure, the ex-CEO made drastic changes, such as dropping some house brands and scrapping promotions, causing J.C. Penney to lose touch with core customers.

Ms. Berman's first national campaign, during the 2013 holiday season, aimed to reconnect with consumers and reclaim the brand -- emphasizing the spirit of giving. Last year, she introduced the tagline "when it fits, you feel it." She also oversaw the brand's first sponsorship of NBC's Olympic broadcast last year, as well as a push to target Hispanic consumers that was at the forefront of the brand's marketing during World Cup. Most recently, she helped launch an efffort during the Oscars that presented the brand as an affordable style and fashion destination.

Last fall, the company set the wheels in motion for a potential media agency review, according to executives familiar with the matter. The company has since been quiet, unleashing speculation about whether there will even be a review.

J.C. Penney spent $923 million on U.S. advertising in 2013. Unmeasured media spending increased 15% to $492 million, while measured media spending decreased 15% to $431 million, according to the Ad Age DataCenter's latest available spending data.

OMD has worked with J.C. Penney for 10 years. The Omnicom media agency giant managed to keep the business through the retailer's tumultuous brand revamp, as well as several CMO and CEO changes.

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