McDonald’s names new CMO: former DDB Australia chief executive Chris Brown takes over as marketing boss
Six years after leaving Australia for New York, former DDB Australia CEO Chris Brown is stepping into his first brand-side role as Vice President and CMO of McDonald's Australia. Two decades with the agency responsible for the brand's creative special sauce should serve him well as McDonald's backs creativity to drive growth.
From Big Mac, to Big Apple, and back
McDonald’s Australia has ended its eight-month hunt for a new CMO by hiring Chris Brown, who steps into the role vacated by Jenni Dill, now CMO at Arnott’s.
As of December, Brown takes on his first brand-side marketing role with a client he knows inside out from 21 years at DDB, with whom McDonald’s has a relationship spanning almost a half-century.
Brown, who becomes Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, rose through the DDB ranks from intern in London to CEO and president of DDB New York via Sydney, where he was DDB Australia CEO.
He left the Omnicom-owned group two years ago after a restructure led by then newly promoted COO and U.S. President Paul Gunning. Gunning is now set to retire at the end of this year, following a number of leadership changes that have seen AUNZ CEO Marty O’Halloran take the reigns globally.
Meanwhile, Brown spent the last year and a half leading the New York office of IPG-owned creative agency, R/GA.
He will now join the McDonald’s Australia senior leadership team, reporting directly to CEO Andrew Gregory, who told Mi3 Brown’s creativity and commercial acumen will help underpin the brand’s strategy and future growth.
“Having led award-winning agencies, campaigns and teams across the globe, Chris brings extensive leadership and commercial experience to the McDonald’s system,” said Gregory.
“Chris will play a critical role in driving and delivering our marketing vision for our 2022 Way Forward Plan, while working closely with our franchisee community and media partners to grow the McDonald’s brand in a rapidly changing marketplace.”
Brown aims to build on McDonald’s strong brand foundations.
"McDonald’s is an iconic and trusted brand in Australia with a commitment to improve the customer experience and make a fundamental contribution to the country as both a major employer and provider of good quality food and services,” said Brown.
"There is also a track record of innovation and creativity and I am looking forward to working with everyone at McDonald's and our partners to deliver strong brand and business outcomes."
Creativity driving effectiveness at McDonald’s
McDonald’s relationship with its creative agency is envied and even praised by rivals in Australia. Speaking alongside DDB’s Leif Stromnes at Advertising Week APAC, Director of Marketing, Jo Feeney, last year credited its “one team” approach as driving a better blend of long-term brand building and short-term results.
McDonald’s decision to hire a creative leader that understands the strength and value of that relationship should therefore come as no surprise: Feeney last week told Mi3 that McDonald’s econometric work consistently suggests that 50% of the effectiveness of a media channel comes from creative.
“It could even be a little bit more on the creative side,” she said. “Creative plays a far bigger part, dare I say, than even the media component, which I think is a new level of understanding for a lot of people.”
Feeney, who sits on McDonald’s global creative council, underlined that creative excellence is a “critical topic” for its marketers around the world. An underlying theme for the council, she said, is “how do we make sure our work is more creatively excellent so that is actually gives us a much better return more broadly?”
Brown is well placed to help answer that question both locally and beyond.
New chicken ad
Brown’s appointment coincides with McDonald’s latest campaign to promote its new Australian chicken menu.
Following a teaser campaign earlier this week, the company is supporting the launch with a TV ad focused on family moments. It is also running outdoor, radio, digital, print and social ads, including a custom Snapchat filter.
"Our new campaign taps into [an] insight to share a story of family connection through Macca’s new chicken menu. We’re proud of the unique relationship we have with Australians and will continue to highlight these moments as part of our wider brand positioning," Feeney says.
The 60-second ad, set to Natalie Nicoles’ cover of You Get What You Give, centres around a young man who’s just moved out of home for the first time.
After completing his move, he orders from the new McDonald’s menu, but his order is instead delivered to his parents as a "parting gift".
“There are times when Aussies naturally turn to Macca’s, moving day being one of them. The story at the heart of this campaign showcases the small and simple gesture of sharing, which seems particularly fitting for the times," DDB Sydney Chief Creative Officer Tara Ford says.
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