Emily Somers

VP Marketing & Food Development, McDonald's

Izzy Ashton

Deputy Editor, BITE


Emily Somers - McDonald's

Career to date:

2015, VP Marketing & Food Development, McDonald's
2014, Managing Director, Havas Worldwide London
2009, Client Service Director & Head of Account Managment, Leo Burnett
2008, Freelance Consultant (Marketing), BBC
2000, BBC Business Director & Head of Account Managment, Red Bee Media
1997, Account Director, AMV BBDO
1995, Account Manager, Lowe Howard-Spink


Creativebrief: As VP of Marketing and Food Development at McDonald’s, what is your primary focus?

Emily Somers: It’s about listening to our customers to make sure we stay relevant, excite them and give them reasons to visit us to secure the long term future of the business. To do that, I need to ensure we have the right people in place with the right support and to create an environment among my team which encourages breadth of thought and creative ambition. I want them to feel empowered to create the best, most compelling work for our customers and help build brand love.

Creativebrief: Please could you outline your career to date, talking us through anything of particular interest or that you’d like to highlight?

Emily Somers: I started in creative agencies, on the account management side, working on a range of brands, from the now defunct electrical retailer Rumbelows, to Vauxhall Motors, Walkers Crisps and Amnesty International. I then joined the BBC’s ‘in-house’ creative agency where I was privileged to work on the launch of its digital channels, BBC Four, BBC Three and CBBC, as well as the re-brand of BBC One, and a range of incredible programmes, including Planet Earth, Blue Planet and The Life of Mammals.

After seven years, including the opportunity to interview Sir David Attenborough, a particular career highlight, I wanted a change and spent a year in South America. On my return, I was tempted back into advertising by the prospect of running the McDonald’s business at Leo Burnett. The next six years were spent working with a fantastic bunch of people and creating work I am tremendously proud of.  Unbeknown to me then, it was also invaluable insight for my current role, which I started in September 2015.

“Myths continue to surround our brand and there are always people looking to undermine trust. We need to ensure the truth is known so that our customers can feel good about eating McDonald's."


Creativebrief: Why did you join McDonald’s? What attracted you to it?

Emily Somers: Joining from the privileged position of having run its advertising business, I knew what a great company McDonald’s is to work with and for, especially the people, so when I had the opportunity to join the business itself, it was a very easy decision! Moving from agency to a fully-fledged marketing role has been a big transition but I have absolutely loved every minute of it.   

When I joined, the business was part way through its transformation of our restaurants to Experience of the Future, which was exciting. We’re creating an experience that changes our customer’s perceptions, whether it’s ordering at a digital kiosk, choosing the convenience of table service, or trying our new Signature gourmet burgers. It’s one of the biggest drivers of perception change we’ve ever undertaken and is already helping to move the dial on trust. However, myths continue to surround our brand and there are always people looking to undermine trust. We need to ensure the truth is known so that our customers can feel good about eating at McDonald’s. That’s a very interesting brief, and I’m proud of how we have put food quality front and centre of our communications.

Creativebrief: What McDonald’s work have you been most proud of in the last year?

Emily Somers: Our campaign for McCafe: great tasting coffee, simple. Insight driven and executed brilliantly. It has been widely recognised by the industry through a whole host of awards but importantly, it resonated with our customers, for whom it captured what they were thinking about the coffee sector as a whole.


Creativebrief: What do you think makes a successful client/agency relationship?

Emily Somers: Trust, honesty and having a shared ambition for what good looks like for your brand. They need to challenge us thoughtfully and be as committed to our success as we are. They need to feel part of the team, to feel rewarded, trusted and confident. When that happens we get the best out of them and importantly they get the best out of us.

Due to the scale of our business, it’s also hugely important that our agencies are able to collaborate, challenge each other and align behind a strategy or idea when we have made a decision. We are lucky to have a number of long standing, very strong agency relationships; our brand is part of their DNA.  As a result they know our business and share our passion for the brand, so are motivated to do the right thing.

Creativebrief: The theme for BITE LIVE this year is From Insight to Action. Can you talk about a piece of insight that you have put into action?

Emily Somers: The ‘great tasting coffee, simple’ campaign for McCafe began with the insight that the whole world of coffee has become a bit ridiculous and very expensive. All people really want is great tasting coffee, fast, without the fuss and without breaking the bank. This plays perfectly to all our brand and operational strengths. It’s also been very successful for us with awareness, consideration, trial and coffee market share all seeing a marked improvement from pre-campaign levels.

“Our primary ambition is to continue to stay relevant. To achieve this, we have to move at the speed our customers expect from us, which is about half a step ahead."


Creativebrief: As VP of Marketing and Food Development, what processes have you put in place to ensure you’re working with more diverse teams?

Emily Somers: McDonald’s is a democratic brand. We are fortunate to have one of the most diverse workforces in the country, and just like our workforce, we have a diverse customer base too. For us to continue to excite our customers, stay relevant and give them plenty of reasons to visit us, we need strong creative ideas that resonate with mass audiences, and this can only come from people with different perspectives and different backgrounds.  So, while we don’t specify a process, we expect there to be a mix of age, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation to engender creativity and ensure our thinking has mass appeal.


Creativebrief: What are your ambitions for McDonald’s over the next few years?

Emily Somers: Our primary ambition is to continue to stay relevant. To achieve this we have to move at the speed our customers expect from us, which is about half a step ahead. Any slower and we give ground to our competitors; any faster and we are no longer relevant to our huge customer base. This doesn’t mean we stop innovating. We’re opening up new digital sales channels through the order screens in our restaurants, our ‘click and collect’ mobile ordering app and McDelivery through UberEATS to make ensure we redefine convenience in our category in a similar way to when we launched in the UK back in 1974.

Creativebrief: Personally, who or what are you inspired by, outside of the industry?

Emily Somers: I never cease to be inspired by my partner’s daughters, Daisy and Ruby, who are 14 and 11. They are fun, inquisitive and open-minded. How they see things is refreshing. It gives me hope for the future, which we all need a bit of right now!

Emily will be speaking alongside Josh Bullmore, Chief Strategy Officer of Leo Burnett, at BITE LIVE 2017