Panera Bread Seeks New VP-Marketing

Former Top Marketer Ed Valle Departs Bakery-Cafe Brand for Choice Hotels International

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NEW YORK ( -- Panera Bread is searching for a new top marketer following the exit of former VP-Marketing Ed Valle, 48, who defected to Choice Hotels International last week to assume the role of chief marketing strategist.

A search is already under way for Mr. Valle's replacement, and Panera plans to hire an external candidate for the role, a spokeswoman for the Richmond, Mo.-based chain of bakery-cafes told Ad Age.

The VP-marketing title is the highest marketing role at the company, a restaurant operator known for its salads, sandwiches and freshly baked breads. Mr. Valle's successor will oversee corporate and franchisee marketing efforts for the company's 1,300-plus cafes around the country, national and field marketing, and the management of ad agency relationships.

Panera spent $24 million on domestic measured media in 2008, while Choice Hotels spent $73 million, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

Mr. Valle's departure comes after he wrapped a media agency review this month. The review, which was overseen by AAR Partners, resulted in a shift of media duties for Panera's account to WPP's Maxus from Interpublic Group of Cos.' Mullen and its Mediahub unit. Creative duties remain at Mullen, Boston.

The move to Choice Hotels for Mr. Valle, whose background is primarily in restaurant marketing with earlier roles at Dunkin' Donuts and Subway, comes weeks after Choice concluded a creative agency review, hiring Leo Burnett and Doner to help it better differentiate its hotel brands.

There he'll report to Choice Hotels CMO Chris Malone, and work on advertising and strategic marketing for Choice Hotels' 6,000 hotels in 30 different countries.

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