Obama’s former press secretary is going to work for McDonald’s

Same fries, new flack.
Same fries, new flack.
Image: AP Images/Eugene Hoshiko
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McDonald’s today (June 9) announced two major hires: Robert Gibbs, former press secretary to US president Barack Obama, will become the fast-food company’s new global chief communications officer, and Silvia Lagnado, previously of Bacardi Limited and the woman behind Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty,” was named global chief marketing officer.

Gibbs served the president in a number of roles, beginning with Obama’s race for the US Senate in 2004, and concluding in February 2011, when Gibbs left his post as White House press secretary. (He went on to co-found The Incite Agency, a communications advisory firm, in 2013.) On his last day at the White House, Obama praised his longtime aide, saying, “You couldn’t ask for anybody better in the foxhole with you.”

McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook is likely hoping for that same kind of support. Following months of bad sales reports (including one issued just yesterday), McDonald’s announced recently that it would cease providing the fodder for negative press and, after June, would disclose sales figures quarterly instead of monthly.

While McDonald’s enjoyed a presidential glow from super fan Bill Clinton in the ’90s, president Obama’s term has been marked by efforts undertaken by first lady Michelle Obama to improve the nation’s health, especially the health of children, both through better eating and exercise. McDonald’s, meanwhile, has come under fire for marketing unhealthy food to children through advertising icon Ronald McDonald, Happy Meals containing toys, and even a mobile app geared toward kids.

So it will be interesting to see what the company’s marketing looks like in the hands of Lagnado, whose Real Beauty campaign was launched in 2004 after a Dove-conducted study, The Real Truth About Beauty: A Global Report, found that “only 2% of women around the world would describe themselves as beautiful.” The campaign, which purports “to make beauty a source of confidence, not anxiety,” has won multiple awards in the decade since its launch and continues to generate buzz—both positive and negative.