- Deborah Wahl, McDonald's U.S. CMO for the last three years, is being replaced by Morgan Flatley, formerly CMO of Global Nutrition at PepsiCo, amid a series of management changes at the fast food giant, The Wall Street Journal reported.
- Lance Richards, head of U.S. menu, and Julia Vander Ploeg, head of U.S. digital, are also leaving the company. The shakeup was initiated by CEO Steve Easterbrook, who is looking to strengthen the brand's business, which saw a lift following the introduction of an all-day breakfast menu last year but has since flagged.
- Last month, Bob Rupczynski, previously an executive at Mondelez, was brought in by Easterbrook to become McDonald's global vice president of media and customer relationship management.
The latest executive changeups at McDonald's — both Wahl's departure and Vander Ploeg's — point to how a number of major brands are reconfiguring what they want their marketing structure to be, especially as they face down digital headwinds and shifting consumer habits. In March, Coca-Cola retired its legacy Global CMO role to consolidate marketing, customer, and commercial leadership and strategy under one combined function.
Wahl's leaving McDonald's is perhaps surprising, given that she's been particularly conscious of remaking the brand's image as more authentic and more keyed into a millennial audience that has slowly moved away from fast food. In October, McDonald's significantly beefed up its social media team, adding 200 staff, amid reports only 20% of millennials had ever tried the chain's signature Big Mac burger.
Wahl cited millennials' distrust of staged, studio-quality advertising as one reason her brand was struggling to engage, and McDonald's marketing messaging has shifted course in the time since then, depicting messier, more real-looking burgers, per the Journal. Last summer, McDonald's also moved its nearly $1 billion ad business to Omnicom after working with Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett agency for 35 years.
The chief marketing officer role, on the whole, continues to see high turnover rates. Recent research from Spencer Stuart found the average length of service for CMOs at major consumer brands in 2016 was 3.5 years, or 42 months, down from 44 months in 2015 and making for a two-year declining trend.
Overall, CMO tenure is an outlier in the C-suite with other positions such as CEO and CFO averaging 7.2 and 5.7 years respectively.