Former McDonald’s CMO Deborah Wahl Takes the Reins at Cadillac as New Marketing Chief

Automaker says news will not affect its relationship with Publicis

Wahl starts in the new role on March 26. Getty Images
Headshot of Kristina Monllos

Cadillac has named Deborah Wahl as its new chief marketing officer.

Wahl succeeds Uwe Ellinghaus, who resigned from the carmaker in late December 2017, citing health problems. She will take the reins on March 26 at the company’s New York headquarters and report the company’s president, Johan de Nysschen.

“Deborah’s diverse experience, as well as her proven track record of building successful global brands, makes her a natural addition to our leadership team,” de Nysschen said in a statement. “Cadillac has made incredible progress over the past several years in our long-term journey to regain our position as the pinnacle of premium luxury brands. Deborah’s experience and strategic vision will build on that progress and help propel Cadillac forward during our next phase of global growth.”

In most circumstances, such a major change might spark speculation about an agency review. But a Cadillac spokesperson said that the hire would not affect its relationship with Publicis Groupe, which won the business in 2014.

“Deborah’s appointment will not impact our AOR relationship with Rokkan, within the Publicis Groupe,” a spokesperson said, adding, “Rokkan has been a part of the Publicis Group and working on pieces of the Cadillac business since 2014.  Their scope expanded towards the end of 2016.”

A Publicis spokesperson has not yet provided comment on the news.

Wahl previously served as McDonald’s CMO. In October, she joined the board of directors of media software company Mediaocean to help CMOs learn to think like chief technology officers. Wahl is also a member of Groupon’s board of directors. Prior to McDonald’s, Wahl was the CMO of construction company PulteGroup. Before that, she was vp and CMO at Chrysler and vp of marketing at Lexus.

Cadillac hopes that Wahl’s hire can help regain some lost luster for a brand that has lost market share to its competitors BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Wahl’s former employer, Lexus.

“As a career marketer, I’ve seen companies make strong efforts to evolve and modernize,” Wahl said in a statement. “It’s never an easy charge. I’ve been watching Cadillac’s transformation from afar and continue to be impressed with the foundational work that has been done that is fueling consumer interest and intrigue. Cadillac is an iconic American luxury brand, and I am honored to join this team and build on the incredible momentum that will restore Cadillac to its place as the leader of luxury brands.”

The company spent $270 million in paid media in the U.S. in 2016 and $188 million last year, according to Kantar Media.

@KristinaMonllos Kristina Monllos is a senior editor for Adweek.