- Fernando Machado is joining video game maker Activision Blizzard as chief marketing officer after leaving his job as global marketing head at Restaurant Brands International (RBI), whose holdings include Burger King, Popeyes and Tim Hortons. Machado, who is considered one of the most high-profile marketing executives worldwide, starts the new job on April 12, Ad Age reported.
- Machado last year was promoted to global CMO at RBI after having the same role at Burger King, where he started in 2014 as head of brand marketing. At the burger chain, Machado developed notable campaigns such as the Whopper Detour and Moldy Whopper. Before joining Burger King, he worked for 18 years at consumer packaged goods giant Unilever.
- Machado is joining Activision Blizzard as the company seeks to maintain strong revenue growth at a time when homebound consumers are spending more time playing video games for entertainment during the pandemic. The company's game franchises include "Call of Duty," "Overwatch" and "Candy Crush." Machado replaces David Messinger, who had joined Activision Blizzard in 2019 as the company's first global CMO.
Fernando Machado's move to Activision Blizzard from RBI comes as the video game giant seeks to maintain sales momentum after seeing strong growth during the pandemic. Machado is widely recognized for his innovative campaigns that get people talking and drive business results. Marketing Dive in 2019 honored Burger King with the Campaign of the Year Award for the burger chain's Whopper Detour conquesting effort that generated more than 1.5 million downloads of its redesigned app. Using mobile geofencing technology, the chain steered customers away from archrival McDonald's by offering them one-cent Whoppers at nearby locations.
Machado also has shown a willingness to push the envelope with ad creative, as seen with Burger King's Moldy Whopper campaign that last year featured pictures of its signature burger covered with green and white fungus, along with a time-lapse video of its decay. The unappetizing imagery contrasted with typical depictions of mouth-watering food that are a hallmark of restaurant advertising, and intended to show that Burger King doesn't use preservatives unlike the menu items of unnamed rivals. A video for the campaign racked up more than 1.7 million YouTube views in the first few days of its release, suggesting Burger King was successful in generating online buzz with the subversive effort, though some consumers had a negative visceral reaction to the campaign, a study indicated.
Those unintended consequences also have been problematic for Burger King, as seen with its recent campaign for International Women's Day, an occasion to celebrate the achievements of women throughout history. Burger King UK's ad creative included the statement, "Women belong in the kitchen," which was intended to be ironic by turning a chauvinistic phrase into a promotion of its efforts to help support the careers of female chefs. After being branded as sexist on social media, Burger King removed the ad and apologized.
In his new role, Machado may face challenges in connecting with gamers who reject advertising they consider too intrusive, though there are signs that newcomer gamers are receptive to marketing messages. Machado's background at Burger King includes efforts to reach gamers who tend to be younger than the general population, making them key targets for the quick-service restaurant industry. Last month, Burger King Spain sought to entice players of the basketball video game NBA 2K21, with a promise of free food for completing tough shots on PlayStation consoles. Burger King partnered with Spanish content creators promote the effort on Twitch and YouTube. The campaign was a sign of Machado's familiarity with the gaming audience.
Machado's move also comes amid a significant change in consumer habits since the onset of the pandemic. Video games have skyrocketed in popularity, while the restaurant industry seeks to recover as limitations on indoor dining are gradually lifted and people grow more comfortable dining out. The differing fortunes for the restaurant and video game industries are seen in their yearly results. RBI's revenue fell 11% to $4.97 billion in 2020, though that decline marked a significant improvement from the 25% plunge in the second quarter of last year, when lockdowns first took effect. Meanwhile, Activision Blizzard's revenue jumped almost 25% to $8.09 billion on the strength of its "Call of Duty" franchise, per a year-end report. Amid signs that consumers are reverting back to their pre-pandemic routines as the U.S. economy reopens, both companies are likely to see more significant shifts in demand for their products and services.