Account Person of the Year 2019: Jen McDonald, VMLY&R

VMLY&R's chief client officer North America, Jen McDonald has been named Account Person of the Year 2019.

One of Jen McDonald’s standout achievements in 2019 was guiding the VMLY&R account team on the Wendy’s business. In 2019, the fast-food chain enjoyed a creative resurgence, winning top honors for innovation from Fast Company and achieving sales growth. 

McDonald, VMLY&R’s chief client officer, North America, guided a team that propelled the brand through product introductions and into cultural relevance through witty, social-media campaigns.

Wendy’s chief marketing officer Carl Loredo described McDonald as a "fearless, trusted partner" and credited her for building an agency team that truly knows the business.

McDonald’s colleagues also cite her fearless leadership, as well as a purpose-driven spirit and commitment to coworkers, all the while overseeing client engagement across the U.S., where she is responsible for driving growth, developing talent and delivering and integrating all of the agency’s offerings. 

VMLY&R was formed in late 2018 when parent WPP united VML and Y&R, created a global offering whose disciplines include creative, digital and brand experience. In her new role as North American chief client officer, McDonald was charged with swiftly merging these two, well established account-management teams. 

She accomplished this, assembled a new, client-operations team and retained every major client, during a time that would be chaotic for any agency. 

VMLY&R also grew business with WPP’s largest client partner, Ford, and snagged account wins for Sherwin-Williams Customer Experience and Google Pixel. 

"[Her] outstanding track record and the work on Wendy's in particular is fantastic," said one of the Campaign awards judges. "A super, super impressive entry and I get a real sense of Jen's specific contribution in delivering all of this success."

McDonald is credited with leading Wendy’s resurgence over the past year, as competition in the fast-food industry heats up. McDonald’s work on Wendy’s was an effective mix of platforms, with digital sales and social soaring. 

Some of VMLY&R’s award-winning work included "Fortnight Fresh," a digital marketing campaign for gamers on Twitch that had the red-haired Wendy icon, in-game, wielding an ax and destroying freezers of ground beef, underlying Wendy’s long-time never-frozen brand promise. 

In what was considered an upset win over Nike, "Fortnight Fresh" scored the inaugural Social & Influencer Grand Prix at the 2019 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. 

McDonald and teams highlighted the brand’s value combinations, such as the "Biggie Bag" which enabled flexibility in the future in how it promotes its products and pricing in 2020. 

As Popeye’s was generating a lot of buzz about a new chicken sandwich, Wendy’s enjoyed increased same-store sales while collecting numerous industry awards for what was clearly recognized as a bounceback year. 

Alongside Wendy’s, during its big year, and building business with other agency clients, stood McDonald, who was all the while managing a new merger and building new business at VMLY&R.