Ivan Pollard, a top marketer at Coca-Cola Co., is becoming the chief marketing officer at General Mills Inc., a job that has been expanded to global scope, the company said Wednesday.
He will establish the Golden Valley-based company's first global marketing and media planning structure. While General Mills is one of the largest advertisers in the United States, its marketing outside the country was largely overseen by executives in those regions.
Pollard's precise duties are still being defined, but it aligns with a broader restructuring of the responsibilities of top executives that happened at General Mills in December. At that time, the company changed its sales groups and gave international responsibilities previously handled by one executive to two group presidents.
"Rather than going in knowing exactly how we are going to structure it, we are going to work it out together," Pollard said in an interview. "I am just one of the parts of the puzzle that will hopefully help us step to the next level."
The British-born executive will begin work at General Mills on July 10 and report to Jeff Harmening, who succeeded Ken Powell as chief executive earlier this month.
Pollard's hiring is another step in a transition that began late last year with the departure of Ann Simonds, a 21-year veteran of General Mills who spent the past two years as chief marketing officer and oversaw a major review of its ad agencies. And in May, Michael Fanuele, the company's chief creative officer, also left.
During their tenure, General Mills hired WPP's Mindshare as its U.S. media agency, MDC Partners' 72andSunny and Redscout as its primary U.S. creative agency and three other agencies — Joan Creative, Erich & Kallman and The Community — for various projects.
Pollard was most recently senior vice president for strategic marketing at Coca-Cola North America, where he used data to help manage the Atlanta-based company's $2 billion in annual global ad spending.
General Mills spends about $700 million on marketing each year. Both companies and other major food makers have come under pressure from changes in consumer tastes away from processed and sugary foods. General Mills has seen its sales gradually decline over the past two years, with sharp drops in yogurt and some bakery products. Its financial strategy has been to trade sales for gains in profit margins, which are sharply higher.
Pollard said he wants to explore how big data could be more useful for General Mills.
"Whether it's Procter & Gamble, Unilever or General Mills, we are challenged with the same opportunities," Pollard said. "Where is the money going? How are we best spending it? How do we work best with our agencies? How do we get the best sales for what's possible from the traditional world and the digital world?"
The trick for how to succeed in a challenging landscape is balancing different marketing methods, he said.
"It's not the digital and nondigital, it's not modern nor traditional, it's, what are the right tools to use? I don't care how you label them but what are the right tools to get the appropriate sale at the right cost in the most compelling way," Pollard said.
Pollard also said he wishes to help the company better capitalize on its large presence in the pantries and lunchboxes of the world.
Before joining Coca-Cola, Pollard worked for a variety of marketing agencies. He was a global partner in Naked Communications, and a leader in firms like BMP, which is now called DDB Needham, and Wieden+Kennedy, the firm best known for its work with Nike.
"Ivan's diverse global experience brings us a fresh perspective on our brands and a deep understanding of how to operationalize integrated, modern marketing in the digital age," Harmening said in a statement.