Wendy’s Seeks New CMO

NEW YORK Wendy’s CMO Ian Rowden is stepping down.

Rowden is leaving the position to return to his native Australia for “personal reasons,” but will stay on for a time to help transition the marketing department, the fast-food company said. Rowden could not immediately be reached for comment.

While a search is under way for a replacement, Rowden’s duties will be split between Paul Kershisnik, svp, marketing strategy and innovation, and Bob Holtcamp, vp, brand management, Wendy’s said.

Despite the tumult, Wendy’s emphasized that it would continue to expand on its “That’s right” campaign, which features red wigs in homage to the company’s namesake character, to boost sales and profits as it heads into 2008.

The client in Dublin, Ohio, spent $235 million in U.S. media in the first three quarters of 2006, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. The client spent almost $375 million in measured media last year.

“Ian was instrumental in reawakening the Wendy’s brand and driving innovation,” said president and CEO Kerrii Anderson, in a statement.

Anderson added that the company would work with its agencies, Saatchi & Saatchi and Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners, to evolve its “That’s right” campaign and “expand it to include more back-to-basics messages that are part of Wendy’s positioning: quality, fresh food and a great consumer experience.”

Rowden joined the company as evp and CMO in December 2004, as Wendy’s was repositioning itself on two, separate points of differentiation: offering seven to nine 99-cent items on its menu, as well as catering to higher-end customers with “better burger and chicken selections” on its main menu, according to Arjun Sen, president of Restaurant Marketing Group.

Since then, Sen added, the brand has been squeezed as both McDonald’s and Burger King played to dominate the 99-cent business, and other chains such as Carl’s Jr. and Sonic both went after the higher-end burger consumers.

“Initially, Wendy’s was able to distinguish itself in the marketplace,” said Sen. “But lately they’ve been squeezed. They have been trying to show their differentiation in their most recent campaign [‘That’s right’], but it’s not clear how impactful that’s been just yet.”

Asked to judge Rowden’s performance, Sen said such a distinction was yet unclear, and will not be clear until about 2009, since so much of the exiting CMO’s work is still in the marketing pipeline.

Though Wendy’s total revenue remained flat in the third quarter, growing less than 1 percent to $631.1 million, income on continuing operations has improved, growing 22 percent to $28.8 million, or 33 cents per share, over the year earlier period.

At the end of the third quarter, Wendy’s operated a total of 6,633 stores, down from 6,741 locations during the same period in 2006.