McDonald’s shuffles marketing team – will it finally respond to Burger King with a strategy change?

When a new marketing boss comes in an agency review usually follows and Leo Burnett in the UK may have been concerned when it discovered UK CMO Gareth Helm was leaving, apparently at his behest.

Mobile operator Three, when such a change occurred, rapidly sundered ties with Wieden+Kennedy despite a number of outstanding campaigns over a ten-year period, ostensibly to concentrate its resources on mind-blowingly expensive 5G.

Then it asked Mother, David Abraham’s Wonderhood Studios and Uncommon to pitch for the business, a good list but agencies from the same mould as W+K. Lucky for them, perhaps, that it couldn’t include James Murphy and David Golding’s New Commercial Arts, signed to a four-month exclusivity deal with new client Halifax.

Leo Burnett should be able to rest easy though as taking over from Helm (who joined from Zoopla in 2019) is UK and Ireland vice-president of food, beverage, product development and marketing Michelle Graham-Clare in an even more expanded role. She was instrumental in many of Burnett’s recent campaigns.

McDonald’s has a new global CEO though in Alistair Macrow, picking up the pieces from its ill-fated foray into DDB’s bespoke agency WeAreUnlimited in the US. At some stage most global CMOs look at global creative “solutions,” although sticking to different approaches in different countries has served McD well. It’s now turned to W+K in the US (which also handles KFC.)

Here’s an expertly crafted UK ad from earlier this year.

In PR terms McDonald’s has taken a kicking recently from smaller Burger King and its livewire CMO Fernando Machado, expert at winding up its more staid rival with aid of happily unleashed agencies including David Miami and Buzzman in France. So far McDonald’s hasn’t responded, although some people there must be itching to.

McDonald’s prefers to do things by the book, as Leo Burnett has ever since McD opened its first UK outlet in the unlikely environs of Woolwich forty-odd years ago. But a change of tack may still be on the cards.

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About Stephen Foster

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Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.