Advocate for marketers? Gutierrez nod puts ad champ at Commerce

By Published on .

The Commerce Department and Bush cabinet will gain a confident supporter of marketing and brands when Kellogg Co.'s Carlos Gutierrez jumps to Commerce secretary.

"It bodes well for the advertising industry in that he relied on advertising to turn around Kellogg," said Wally Snyder, president-CEO of the American Advertising Federation, where Mr. Gutierrez once served on the board. "He has a firm understanding of advertising's contribution to the economy."

Mr. Gutierrez managed a prized portfolio of global brands as chairman-CEO at Kellogg. He could be a welcome advocate for marketers that want the U.S. to step up pressure on other countries over intellectual-property issues such as product counterfeiting.

Mr. Gutierrez has been selling Frosted Flakes since 1975 and sold Wall Street on Kellogg's turnaround, and he can use marketing and communication skills to help sell the Bush economic plan to Congress and the public.

John Stanton, professor of food marketing at St. Joseph's University, said the new secretary likely will help give the department a greater vision of how to satisfy the ultimate consumer: the country's citizens. "If anyone can do that, Mr. Gutierrez can," he said.

The biggest marketing beneficiaries of his appointment may be travel companies, which have been frustrated in efforts to get the department to help lure overseas travelers. Commerce last March began a $6 million pilot program to attract foreign tourists, but the travel industry wants the department to do more. Travel interests now can make their case to a veteran marketer.

President Bush on Nov. 29 nominated Mr. Gutierrez, one of the country's top-ranking Hispanic-American executives, to replace Donald Evans.

The president called Mr. Gutierrez, 51, "a great American success story." He fled Cuba for the U.S. in 1960, joined Kellogg in 1975 as a sales rep in Mexico City and moved up to run Kellogg in Mexico, Canada and Asia-Pacific. Appointed CEO in 1999, he is credited with reviving the food marketer and was seen as a potential Coca-Cola Co. CEO but declined to pursue that job.

Kellogg last year reported $699 million in worldwide ad spending, and Ad Age ranked it the No. 39 global marketer. Kellogg operates in more than 180 countries.

John McMillin, a Prudential Securities analyst, called Mr. Gutierrez's leadership skills "among the best I've seen in my 20-plus years as a food-industry analyst."

Mr. Gutierrez also drew praise from Mike Burns, vice chairman of Kellogg rival General Mills' agency, Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi. "[Carlos] definitely inspired a turnaround in that company; totally repositioned it from being focused on volume to value with value-added premium ideas that have been marketing and consumer driven."

As Commerce secretary, he will make $171,900 a year-less than weekly pay at Kellogg, where he last year made $9.3 million (see Salary Survey, P. S-6).

While the nomination of Mr. Gutierrez drew rave reviews from marketing and business groups, they stressed his expertise on international trade will be more relevant at Commerce than his marketing background. "While Commerce doesn't have a lot of role in [advertising] regulation, in the generic sense if there were discussions in the White House, he would be a booster [of marketing]," said Dan Jaffe, exec VP of the Association of National Advertisers.

Dick O'Brien, exec VP of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, predicted Mr. Gutierrez would make a significant contribution on trade. "He will be very amenable to making sure that the marketing and ad industries have the proper environment to flourish."

The Commerce secretary usually is an administration's point person on trade, but the secretary's role has widely varied, said Bruce Josten, exec VP at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "From that perch he can take on a number of things, from global business development to international travel and tourism, to structural competitive issues," he said. "It's a bit of a wide open playing field. He has got to make some decisions about piece of turf he wants to carve out."

Observers said some of Kellogg's key issues at the federal level-questions about advertising to kids and childhood obesity-likely won't be within the direct realm of the Commerce secretary.

Still, Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, said the appointment could affect those issues. "We are going to have a very hard time getting the Commerce Department to support calls for the regulation of children's advertising," he said. "The new secretary will likely make consumer advocates `snap, crackle, and pop' in anger and frustration."

Most Popular
In this article: