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Opinion 10 Feb 2020 - 5 min read

Maccas CMO Jenni Dill departs - more marketers under the pump

By Paul McIntyre - Executive Editor
McDonalds 2019 Landmark Campaign

A McDonald's campaign from DDB - creative accounts for up to 70% of media ROI in TV and video ads

McDonald’s CMO Jenni Dill has called time on her four-year tenure, with all manner of rumblings on why the quick exit. Campbell Arnott’s and Lion have also seen their CMOs exit and more marketer movement is afoot elsewhere. What’s going on?    

One of the biggest - and toughest - marketing roles in Australia is on the block. McDonald's CMO Jenni Dill has left the business after four years and the hunt is on for her replacement.

It's the third CMO at a big brand to go in as many months and more departures are said to be in the wings elsewhere. Given marketing tenures, it's a mathematical certainty. 

Dill's four year tenure was above the famed short life expectancy of CMOs around the world, roughly 2.3 years, and McDonald's, from the outside, still looks like a well-oiled marketing organisation. Indeed, several industry players say Dill, who cut much of her career at PepsiCO, was the best CMO they've worked under. But the circumstances around Dill's abrupt departure remain fuzzy. 

"She was genuinely the best CMO I've ever worked with," says one. "She was exceptional. She's commercial, gets the value of creative and media and understands the balance between retail and brand. McDonald's has produced the best work and results for a long time under Jenni."    

Dill has young children and four years in a seat requiring charm and travel to hundreds of powerful and vocal licensees - they directly fund McDonald's marketing and product development budgets - along with running a huge marketing machine is all consuming. One theory is that she's called time out. 

But the speed of her exit has triggered rumblings of tension between Dill and influential licensees. If it's true, the licensees usually win. "There was definitely tension between Jenni and the operators," says one observer. "You have to manage 200 or more operators. All of them have a say and all of them are marketing experts." And any tension with licensees could be linked to their margins and the sorts of promotions and menu configurations designed to drive top line sales. If too much margin is diluted in the process, operators get scratchy.   

What ever the scenario, the CMO remit at McDonald's is wide and deep. It covers research and menu teams, analytics, marketing and digital commerce - although this may change as the chain seeks a new top marketer. It's certainly rare for a CMO today to have such reach across an organisation. 

As this week's Deep Dive and Mi3 podcast with Mark Ritson, the head of LinkedIn's global marketing think tank Jann Schwarz and an advisor to the UK's IPA, Fran Cassidy, make abundantly clear, most modern marketers are now essentially not the CMO but the CPO - Chief Promotion Officer.

Marketers have largely lost their right to manage all  four 'Ps' of classic marketing - price, place, product and promotion. The first three have gone to other teams in the organisation, leaving them holding just marketing communications. And typically, it's going backwards in effectiveness.

Schwarz, who set up the LinkedIn-funded B2B Institute, argues the most important of the 4ps is price and product and marketing typically has little control over those agendas today. An entire new suite of capabilities is required to rebuild marketing into a broader value creation function that demands attention from senior management. The ever cynical former business school professor, Mark Ritson, agrees entirely.

New language, new metrics, new capabilities, a new rapport and alignment with finance and a renewed understanding of what marketing is meant to be, beyond tactics, is what is required for modern, business-savvy marketers, he says. And it is hard to disagree.

McDonald's new CMO has a big task. She or he, and the rest of the marketing, tech and media supply chain, would do well to heed the challenges and solutions raised in this piece and podcast with Ritson, Schwarz and Cassidy.

The future of a credible remit that is inextricably linked to business value - and that can demonstrate its worth - may just hinge on a rebranding and reframing of marketing itself.      

A spokesperson from McDonald's confirmed Dill's departure:

Jenni Dill has made the decision to pursue new career opportunities outside of McDonald’s.

Over the last four years with Macca’s, Jenni has been instrumental in building a strong team of marketers, leading the creation of big communication platforms for the brand, driving focus on Macca’s iconic core products and enabling rapid digital acceleration.

We thank Jenni for her contribution, enthusiasm and commitment to the McDonald’s business, and we wish her well in her future endeavours.

A new Chief Marketing Officer will be announced in due course.

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