- General Mills Chief Marketing Officer Ann Simonds announced she is leaving the company at the end of this year, according to a report in Ad Age. Her successor has yet to be named.
- Simonds’s departure comes during a larger restructuring effort from General Mills that includes the cutting of hundreds of positions, impacting 400 to 600 positions globally. The brand is entirely eliminating its international chief operating officer role, previously held by Chris O'Leary.
- Simonds became CMO of General Mills in 2014 but first signed on with the company in 1995. She made a media splash in August of this year with the announcement of diversity quotas for any agency pitching to work with General Mills.
At a time when ad agencies often seem sluggish to address systemic issues like a lack of diversity, Simonds showed she was willing to take a stronger stance from the brand side with a quota initiative, wherein agencies looking for General Mills’s business had to staff at least 50% women and 20% people of color, per Adweek’s AgencySpy. It was a bold move, with few, if any, brands having made such requirements previously.
Simonds was lauded by some for her bullish approach to social issues — she earned a nod in the 2016 Dive Awards for executive of the year — and her departure from the CMO role after just two years is a bit surprising.
As Ad Age notes, the General Mills brand has struggled financially of late, with a sales decline of 7% in Q1 of this year and generally slipping performance in recent years. Barring slowed sales, the CMO position has become an especially unstable one overall, with the rapid proliferation and fragmentation of digital media and marketing tools requiring a jack-of-all-trades approach.
Forrester Research recently forecast that at least 30% of CMOs will be canned in 2017 due to an inability to achieve proper digital transformation for their brands. CMOs have an average job lifespan of 44 months, according to industry estimates, making Simonds’s time in the position at General Mills notably brief, though she spent over two decades working with the company.