McDonald's, Uber and Johnson & Johnson no longer have chief marketing officers — here's what that means

Source: McDonald's

This week, McDonald's announced that its Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Silvia Lagnado is set to leave the company in October, and her role will not be directly replaced.

According to industry publication AdAge, a new global CMO at McDonald's will not be named. However, two executives have been promoted: Bob Rupczynski has become senior vice-president, marketing technology, and Colin Mitchell takes on the title of senior vice-president, global marketing.

McDonald's is the latest of a few global companies to reshuffle marketing. Uber's CMO Rebecca Messina is stepping down, the company announced in June, and marketing duties will instead be handled by Jill Hazelbaker, its senior vice president of communications and public policy before the reorganization. Uber has also made the chief operating officer job, held by Barney Harford, redundant.

YouTubers PatrickStarrr and Desi Perkins with McDonald's Happy Meals at an after party for "The Lion King" movie on July 9, 2019 in Hollywood, California
Erik Voake | Getty Images

Meanwhile, the CMO role at Johnson & Johnson (J&J) was also removed last month in a reshuffle that "streamlines priorities," according to J&J. Alison Lewis, who held the role for five years, will not be directly replaced, a spokesperson told industry website The Drum. CMO duties will be split between other leaders in the company.

The changing role of marketing is reflective of the huge variety of new ways to advertise to and communicate with consumers. There is now an enormous range of new marketing technology (martech), for example, from software that personalizes websites for each visitor to tech that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to create thousands of slightly different versions of an online ad. Rupczynski at McDonald's will report to Daniel Henry, the company's chief information officer, reflecting the importance of technology in marketing.

Allen Adamson, co-founder of consultancy Metaforce, said he expects businesses to continue to rethink the job of CMO. He expects companies to split responsibilities, as it is "no longer realistic for one person to do." "Managing a global brand 24/7 on social media channels could easily burn out five CMOs in a month," he told CNBC by phone. Adamson expects regional marketing heads to be given more responsibility, and for companies to find quicker and more efficient ways of marketing.

Peter Reid, chief executive of marketing group MSQ Partners, said these shifts do not necessarily mean marketing is reducing in importance. "As companies and brands embrace martech and more broadly digital transformation, they are increasingly looking to unify their tech, marketing and customer activities under single leadership to ensure all activities are aligned with a single, overall strategy," he told CNBC by email.

Jill Hazelbaker is senior vice president of marketing and public affairs at Uber

At Uber, the combining of marketing with public affairs will help the company improve its reputation (former CEO Travis Kalanick resigned in 2017 after a series of PR crises), Reid added.

"For them over the next few years winning the public affairs and public relations battle is their crucial battleground — and their marketing efforts (including steps such as sponsoring the Men's Cricket World Cup) are all ultimately aimed at winning that battle," he said.

Uber wants to have one person who is ultimately responsible for sending a united message to all Uber audiences, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in an email to employees. "It's increasingly clear that it's crucial for us to have a consistent, unified narrative to consumers, partners, the press, and policymakers," he wrote.

Marketers in its different teams, including Eats, Rides and "new mobility," will now report directly to Hazelbaker.

In an email sent Monday, McDonald's Chief Executive Steve Easterbrook said Lagnado had a "significant" impact during her time there and is moving on to new challenges. Lagnado joined the company in 2015. McDonald's had not responded to CNBC's request for comment at the time of publication.

Khosrowshahi praised former CMO Messina for showing "the best aspects of our brand during our IPO." Uber had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

Lewis said she looked on her achievements at J&J as a "proud moment," according to a statement emailed to CNBC. "I am ready to pass responsibility to a marketing organization that is agile, close to the consumer and one that possesses a contemporary skill set that will help the consumer business grow," she added.

This article has been updated to include a comment from J&J.

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