Taco Bell CMO David Ovens Resigns

Company Says Departure Will Not Affect Relationship With Agency DraftFCB

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Taco Bell chief marketing officer David Ovens has resigned from the company. Mr. Ovens, who has been with Yum since 2007, reportedly resigned for personal reasons and is returning to Australia with his family. Mr. Creed is expected to oversee the company's marketing function until a replacement for is found.

The company confirmed the departure, issuing the following statement: "I am extremely proud of David's contributions to the brand," said Greg Creed, CEO of Taco Bell Corp. "I'm honored to have had the opportunity to work with David, and I know he will be very successful in future endeavors where he can bring his energy, passion and vision back to his native Australia."

The Irvine, Calif.-based fast-food company made headlines earlier this year after a lawsuit charged that Taco Bell's advertising was deceptive because its ground beef was made up mostly of substances other than beef. The suit prompted Taco Bell to quickly launch an aggressive campaign from agency DraftFCB to fend off the charges. The suit was withdrawn in April.

In parent Yum Brands' most recent quarter, domestic same-store sales for Taco Bell were down 5%, and down 4% in the U.S. for Louisville, Ky.-based Yum overall. During the earnings call in July, Yum CEO David Novak said that the decline in the U.S. was "primarily due to Taco Bell, our most profitable U.S. brand," adding that the company "had higher than normal commodity inflation." Yum's international divisions fared much better.

Sales and lawsuits aside, Taco Bell has found itself in the hot seat with its franchise council for its marketing tactics, among other things. As Taco Bell defended itself against the lawsuit's charges, a letter from the Franchise Management Advisory Council (Franmac) surfaced. The letter's subject included a list of issues Franmac had with Taco Bell, including the council's desire to re-evaluate the DraftFCB agency relationship. Taco Bell has since stood by the Interpublic Group of Cos. agency.

At the time, Mr. Ovens said in a statement to Ad Age : "We are very pleased with our longstanding agency partnership and have no plans to make any changes as we're completely focused on building the business."

The franchise council also took issue with the public relations outreach regarding the lawsuit and expressed discontent with the company's "value messaging."

Don Unruh, chairman of Franmac Marketing Committee, said in a statement: "David has been instrumental in leading Taco Bell's layered marketing calendar and value position, and we appreciate everything that his vision and passion brought to the brand. We are all 100 percent determined to build long term growth and support the Taco Bell leadership team as we all work together to regain our brand esteem and drive significantly better performance."

As for what the departure will mean for Taco Bell's agency, a spokesman said, "David is leaving for personal reasons, so it has nothing to do with our agencies. We are very pleased with our agency partners and have no plans to make any changes."

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