Frankel's Dillon takes tech experience to promo post

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Time is a crucial factor in Tony Dillon's life. He collects antique wristwatches. He was an architect of McDonald's Corp.'s developing just-in-time food preparation system. And his newest creation, a digital point-of-purchase display system, can cut POP delivery by six to eight weeks.

"It's faster and more responsive to competition than current [paper and ink POP] systems," said Mr. Dillon, 40, general manager of Siren Technologies, a division of sales promotion and marketing giant Frankel & Co, Chicago.


Touted as the first of its kind, the new digital POP system aims to revolutionize the $12 billion POP industry by allowing site managers at retail to change large-screen electronic displays in all units simultaneously.

Although his background is heavily technical, beginning as a software engineer for Sperry Corp.'s Aerospace & Marine Group in 1980 and leading most recently to a 10-year run at McDonald's, which he left last year as director-technology development, Mr. Dillon will be charged initially with marketing digital POP to existing Frankel clients and others.

"This allows digital POP to become an active part of the marketing mix. . . . It allows you to talk to customers in a special way right in your own retail space," said Mr. Dillon.

The retail environment is a familiar one to Mr. Dillon, who first joined McDonald's as technical services manager in 1986. From there, he moved on to such posts as project manager-purchasing and logistics system and development manager-marketing systems. He also had a hand in menu optimization and new-product forecasting.

He was part of a team that produced "a wholesale redesign of service and product systems" testing at McDonald's, but also experimented with other cutting-edge technologies, including ordering kiosks, credit and debit cards, and even voice recognition systems.


As director of McDonald's international business systems group, he was responsible for technology development in more than 100 countries. That job got Mr. Dillon started collecting watches--he wears a different one each day.

"When you travel a lot, sometimes you find yourself with a dead afternoon," he said. "So I'd look for a watch dealer. Once, I got a Movado watch from a flea market in Argentina."

Time's been on his side with Siren, where he won his new post in June, less than a year after joining Frankel as general manager-digital POP. So far, he's sold two Frankel clients on test runs.

He wouldn't name them, but one is believed to be the U.S. Postal Service. It would use digital POP to promote its special stamps at post offices.

Another application of the Siren system is electronic menu boards for fast-feeders, but Siren won't say whether Big Mac is on board. It's unlikely, though, that Siren would sell the boards to a McDonald's rival, such as Burger King Corp.

"We might have to think that one out," said Mr. Dillon. Still, rivals of some Frankel clients are already interested."I already received a call from one" who read about digital POP, said Mr. Dillon.

Copyright July 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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