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McDonald's has lost its global chief marketing officer Mary Dillon, who is decamping June 1 to take the CEO job at U.S. Cellular. We don't know what kind of job she'll do at U.S. Cellular, but we weren't impressed with Dillon's five years at the helm of the burger behemoth's global marketing effort.

Granted our first direct interaction with Dillon couldn't have been worse. She was handed a prepared speech to read to us over the phone, and we sat speechless, with phone receiver to ear, while she recited it verbatim. If ever there were a more robotic performance from a top marketing executive, we've yet to experience it. Dillon obviously was good at being a team player at McDonald's. She kept the ads coming for the past five years. But do we remember any of them? Not really. That leads us to believe she was probably a decent manager -- but hardly a visionary.

And that is really what McDonald's needs in the job Dillon is leaving if it wants to regain its preeminence as a marketing force. Just as Dillon was preparing to walk out the door at McDonald's, the fast food giant unveiled a handful of TV spots that seemed to indicate it was ready to get back in touch with its roots as a great advertiser. We're not entirely sure where the impetus for this surprising display originated, but it obviously won't be Dillon's task to ensure that it leads to a full restoration of McDonald's advertising glory.

In the end, Dillon was just like so many CMO's out there today who fill a seat and do pretty much only what they have to do to get the job done. And all the while -- which usually isn't very long these days -- looking for the next thing to move on to. Real commitment? Vision? Legacy? Nope. Not for Dillon or for most of her peers in the marketing world. That's just not what this marketing game is about anymore.

US McNugget.JPGThe McDonald's Webcast Monday morning was painfully stiff and scripted. The event was designed to showcase McDonald's marketing efforts surrounding the Winter Olympics set to kick off next month in Vancouver, Canada.

It took McDonald's global chief marketing officer Mary Dillon and McDonald's Canada president John Betts and assorted guests about 20 minutes to walk us through the various components of the fast food behemoth's marketing initiatives tied to the 2010 Games. About three minutes of that time, roughly, was devoted to actual McDonald's Olympic TV advertising.

Sad to say, terribly old-fashioned TV commercials aren't top of mind anymore at McDonald's, which, along with scores of other companies, seems convinced that there are other, more efficient ways to reach their core audience now. Still, this is the Olympics. And a truly great TV commercial could have whetted the public's appetite for the upcoming Olympics and for McDonald's.

But the worked McDonald's unveiled Monday couldn't have been more underwhelming. For the United States market, McDonald's is going with just two instantly forgettable spots from DDB/Chicago, a longtime roster agency. One spot is all about a female hockey team and another showcases two snowboarders. Both are about pushing McNuggets, which apparently is what McDonald's is using this Olympics to market. Not the glory of the games. Or the excitement of athletic competition. Just McNuggets, which McDonald's said was its most requested menu item at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

McDonald's, of course, is entitled to push whatever it wants in its TV commercials. But clearly the company wasn't inclined to spend big on a commercial or two for the 2010 Olympics that weren't primarily product-focused. Such is the way most advertisers think about their marketing nowadays: don't spend on anything that won't boost the bottom line. It's a short-sighted, narrow-minded philosophy that almost inevitably leads to the hopelessly mediocre kind of work McDonald's introduced during Monday's Web cast.

There was a time when McDonald's would have delivered more -- much more -- than merely mediocre TV creative. Those times are gone. And we're definitely not lovin' it.



About the blogger

Lewis Lazare has written the Media Mix column for the Chicago Sun-Times for the past seven and a half years.

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