McDonald's Adds New U.S. Brand and Strategy Officer Role

What Agencies Should Know About Kevin Newell

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Kevin Newell
Kevin Newell

McDonald's has reorganized its U.S. leadership team, as part of which it's moving Global Brand Officer Kevin Newell to a newly-created U.S. brand and strategy officer position, Ad Age has learned.

Mr. Newell will report directly to U.S. president Jeff Stratton, who replaced Jan Fields in December. Ms. Fields left McDonald's in the wake of the company's first global sales decline in nine years.

"Over the past 80 days since assuming my new role, I've taken time to listen, learn and understand the strengths and opportunities within the U.S. business," said Mr. Stratton in a staff memo this month, obtained by Ad Age. "You've been very generous with your feedback and together we've made meaningful progress: system alignment is growing, the plan priorities are being refined and together we're re-energizing the business.... I've also learned that there is still potential to be unleashed. With some enhancements to our team structure, I believe we can create even better alignment, focus and momentum."

In the new role, a number of departments at McDonald's will now be rejiggered to report directly to Mr. Newell: marketing, menu, strategy and insights.

Previously, those departments reported directly to the U.S. president. Besides underscoring the amount of responsibility Mr. Newell will now have on his shoulders, the restructuring also means that U.S. chief marketing officer Neil Golden has a new boss. He previously reported to the U.S. president, but will now report to Mr. Newell. That means that the Golden Arches' agencies --which include Omnicom Group's TBWA and DDB, Havas' Arnold and Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett -- are paying close attention to these moves.

Mr. Newell has has ties to Leo Burnett --where he worked before McDonald's-- and another shop on the roster, Burell Communications. He joined McDonald's in 1989, and has held a variety of senior posts in both marketing and operations.

Mr. Stratton, a longtime operations executive, will add responsibility for U.S. field organization, and division presidents will report directly to him. Chief Operating Officer Jim Johannesen takes on an expanded role as chief operations and support officer.

McDonald's spokeswoman Heather Oldani said that the new structure was intended to bring a greater sense of alignment of the four functions Mr. Newell oversees, noting that marketing, menu, strategy and insights are all key functions in how McDonald's engages with its customers. It's not known at this point whether any marketing executives or agencies will be affected by the restructuring in the future.

Most recently, Mr. Newell was McDonald's global brand officer, a position he took in early 2011. His role in the U.S. is similar to his global one, in that menu, marketing and strategy insights report to him. Though the role of global brand officer has not been filled, find a replacement for Mr. Newell, said Ms. Oldani.

The news comes after McDonald's had a somewhat volatile 2012. McDonald's sales last year, while up 3.3% in the U.S., have decelerating since early 2012. In October, the company posted its first global sales loss in nine years, including a 2.2% drop in the U.S. McDonald's has acknowledged that it now faces tough comparisons in the coming months, as last winter's sales were higher than usual because of the unseasonably mild winter. Indeed, McDonald's global January sales were down 1.9%, though U.S. sales were up 0.9%. McDonald's is expecting a drop in February sales, and noted that it will be hurt by about three percentage points, as last year's February sales included an extra day due to leap year.

Ms. Oldani said that the new structure is not a response to the sales declines, but is about looking to the future and finding ways to drive the business forward.

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