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Chain Seeks Strategic Insight

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NEW YORK Seeking synergies across its marketing operations and to foster new ideas, Wendy's International has created an innovations and strategy group that will oversee research and development, among other functions.

The new group reports to evp, chief marketing officer Ian Rowden, who said in a statement, "We know that innovation at all levels, from the menu to packaging to the customer experience in our restaurants, is critical to our success. Everything is now strategically linked and will work tightly together."

Rowden has named three Wendy's executives to the group and he is searching for a senior strategist to lead the team.

Senior vice president Mike Watson, who has worked at the Dublin, Ohio, company for 26 years, is overseeing operations innovation for Wendy's 10,000 restaurants. Senior vice president Lori Estrada, who oversees new products and packaging, will helm research and development. Casey Minton, a vp, is leading strategic insights and innovation, focusing on consumer research and developing new revenue streams.

Folding operations components into the innovations and strategy group is an important step," Rowden said. "It's the first time we've had someone with Mike's operations background as an integral part of the marketing team."

All brand management, field marketing, emerging consumer markets and marketing operations continue to report to Rowden.

Separately, the company has also folded media services and diversity marketing under brand management vp Bob Holtcamp, who continues to oversee advertising production. That move is meant to "facilitate greater alignment between media, message and creative as the company executes marketing initiatives," the company said.

Wendy's lead agency is Interpublic Group's McCann Erickson. The client spent $380 million in U.S. measured media last year, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

In May, New York-based McCann hired Benjamin Vendramin in the new position of svp, group creative director on the account [Adweek Online, May 31].

McCann has worked on the business since winning it after a review in August 2002. IPG's Universal McCann handles media duties.

Current work is tagged, "Do what tastes right."