Feature

Yahoo! Report: Message from McDonald's

We've lured the McDonald's chief marketing officer for Northern Europe into the Yahoo! Big Idea Chair.

Jill McDonald (yes, really) talks about Super Size Me, Prince Charles and why banning ads won't tackle the obesity issue.

Jill McDonald is McDonald's chief marketing officer for Northern Europe. Before that, she worked at British Airways, where she rose from brand manager to head of global marketing. In that role, she launched the PJ O'Rourke "Johnny Foreigner" advertising and spearheaded the Rugby World Cup sponsorship.

On starting out Only child, comfortable middle class upbringing. Went a bit off the rails in early teens as I discovered boys, fags and skiving. Got a first-class degree in business studies at Brighton University - I always hope people will think I mean Sussex University, but it was actually Brighton Poly. Joined Colgate-Palmolive as a graduate trainee in 1987. After a few years, the lure of free first-class travel, instead of free soap, attracted me to BA.

On switching jobs and sectors When I did one of the world's biggest brands, in one of the biggest and most competitive markets in the world, sales accountability and a fair share of strategic issues facing the brand - how could I resist? Once I had met some of the senior team and particularly the chief executive, Steve Easterbrook, I knew this was a team I wanted to join.

On how the growth of online will impact on media planning in food retail generally The majority of our media spend is still behind television. With more than two million customers visiting us every day, we have a broad customer base that still makes television an attractive medium. However, we have switched millions of pounds worth of spend out of television into online. Many of our customers are young adults and it is where they are increasingly spending their time. Like many brands we are still working out how best to use the medium. In 2005, we ran a two-week "buy one, get one free" food promotion. The food offer changed daily and our objective was to raise the awareness of the promotion itself by highlighting the rotating product offers by day. Traditionally, we would have used television for this. However, we recognised that the internet could more easily support daily messaging and was a cost-efficient way to deliver information about the offers during the pre-lunchtime period. Our online media partners, including Yahoo!, funded research into this campaign, which supported our decision to use online.

On the biggest marketing challenges we face Obesity is a real problem that society is facing. Advertising is not the issue, improving the diet and lifestyle of our children is, and McDonald's can play a role to help parents. Over the past few years, we have reduced the salt, fat and sugar content of the most popular children's food items, Chicken McNuggets, fries, and hamburgers. We have also offered more choice and variety on our menus from salads to low-fat deli sandwiches. I think we can also do more to use some of the fantastic children's properties we have as part of our Happy Meals to make fruit and vegetables fun for children.

On a recent online campaign that I have seen which made me think "I want some of that" for McDonald's - and why I admire Ocado for a number of reasons. For me, it has a stronger customer proposition than its competitors. When it targets me with e-mails, I open most of them because they are interesting, and the web- site and delivery service work. The reminder for me is the need to ensure you orientate the business around what the customer wants and not around what is convenient for you to deliver as a service provider.

On how McDonald's balances the benefits of a globalised communications message and its cost efficiencies, with the need to retain bespoke appeal in local markets One of McDonald's core strategies is ensuring local relevance both in terms of menu choice and communication. Breakfast is a great example where there are significant cultural differences - our colleagues in France look bemused at the thought of having a bacon roll or porridge for breakfast. McDonald's has gone through cycles of centralisation versus decentralisation. However, the current business model is pretty decentralised. Of course, there are things you do not change or muck about with, but there is no big push for a global creative execution or a single global menu. It is much more useful to share what ideas have worked around the world.

On agencies My definition of a good client-agency relationship is one built on mutual respect and one where both agency and client are really pushing each other to get better results. I value pro-activity and clear thinking on all aspects of marketing, not just the next TV ad. I want to feel that my team and I are being kept on our toes and challenged. Comfortably trotting along, churning out a few TV ads that do OK is not my definition of success. I think McDonald's has a good approach to agency relationships. It is very committed to its global creative agency partners, Leo Burnett, TBWA\ and DDB, but we have flexibility at a local level as to which one we work with.

On media owners I like the idea of media owners as idea generators. I think that the role that many of our online media owner partners play is very valuable to us. We certainly don't have all the answers and I value the ideas that the subject matter experts have come up with.

On Super Size Me I think as the brand leader in the informal eating out market, we naturally end up taking a lot of the criticism that the sector receives. However, the changes that McDonald's UK have made over the past few years are really beginning to get recognition from our customers and stakeholders. So when we were recently faced by the comments Prince Charles supposedly made, we received support from a whole range of bodies and individuals - thank you Marco-Pierre White - but, most importantly, our customers who firmly showed their support by voting with their feet.

On achieving a successful work-life balance I am really lucky that I have a great support network from my live-in nanny, to my mum who has recently moved in with us, a mum-in-law who lives ten minutes away and, most importantly, my husband who has always been supportive of my career. I do use a BlackBerry, which irritates the family, but I find it a comfort knowing that I can always be connected to the office. I would make a rotten stay-at-home mum.

On a big idea in food marketing I respect the Innocent brand for a number of reasons - taking a niche concept and making it mainstream, having a distinct brand attitude and providing my fussy four year old with one of his five a day without him realising.

On a big idea for the future in any field Transportation that can enable you to be in about five places at once!

If you live on planet Earth, you will have heard of Russell Davies, Campaign columnist and blogger extraordinaire at russelldavies.com. He talked about this interview on his blog and we invited people to submit questions for Jill to address. Here's one of the best, posted by Tony:

Here's a tough question for someone new on the job. I don't know a single person who thinks Ronald McDonald is likeable/funny/endearing/nice. He looks spooky/artificial/contrived/creepy. So, when are you going to get rid of Ronald? I am assuming Tony is referring to his adult mates? In the UK, Ronald's appeal is, not surprisingly, younger. How could any adult in their right mind not find a grown man dressed up as a clown endearing?