Kenny Mitchell may be outside Snapchat’s core demographic — he’s 43 years old — but the brand marketer is one of the rare execs who have the knowledge and appreciation of the platform.
Now, as Snap battles competition with Instagram and newcomer TikTok for attention and ad dollars, Mitchell has to convince other executives of Snapchat’s worth.
On Thursday, Snap announced Mitchell as its first chief marketing officer. Mitchell, who most recently served as vp of marketing at McDonald’s, is the latest hire in the changing guard in Snapchat’s leadership after several executive departures last year.
He joins Jeremi Gorman, Snap’s chief business officer who previously served as head of ad sales at Amazon and Jared Grusd, chief strategy officer who was CEO of Huffington Post and Julie Henderson, chief communications officer who served in the same role at 21st Century Fox. But Mitchell comes with his own reputation for authenticity and creativity within the brand world.
Sources that have worked with Mitchell told Digiday that he has long understood and respected Snapchat as an ad platform and other social apps. He’s pitched creative campaigns, catered to social platforms, in his time at Nascar, Gatorade and McDonald’s. For example, McDonald’s did a takeover of Reddit in December, working with agencies OMD and We Are Unlimited.
(Mitchell also does maintain an active Snapchat account, but it’s “private” and for friends only, per a rep.)
“Kenny has a track record of considered bets that have created and sustained relevance for his brands without ever resorting to empty stunts. Gatorade could have been considered ‘conservative’ as a marketer, but under Kenny, they became a Snapchat case study for their sales team when pitching other brands,” said Paul Kelly, chief revenue officer of Highsnobiety.
Snap has previously highlighted Mitchell and his work with the company. For its 2017 IPO roadshow video, Snap featured three marketers to share their (bullish) view on Snapchat as an ad platform. The first guest was Mitchell, who touted the success of an animated video about Usain Bolt they had shared on Snapchat.
“Thirty percent completion rate on a seven-minute video — you don’t get that on the other platforms,” Mitchell said.
That video wasn’t Mitchell’s only case-study-worthy success on Snapchat during his time at Gatorade. He led Gatorade’s dunk AR lens during the 2016 Super Bowl, and he oversaw Gatorade’s AR game, featuring Serena Williams, during the 2016 U.S. Open.
Inside Snap, Gatorade’s Usain Bolt video served as its long-form video case study for advertisers, perfect to show that advertising was welcomed, not hated, by users, and video longer than 10 seconds could work on the platform. Sources said Mitchell even evangelized vertical videos within Gatorade.
Snap CEO Evan Spiegel emphasized Mitchell’s Snapchat knowledge in his statement.
“Kenny’s consumer marketing expertise and his deep understanding of our products will be a great combination for Snap. Throughout his career, Kenny has demonstrated his ability to successfully execute innovative, global marketing campaigns, many of which have leveraged our own vertical video and augmented reality products. He’s a natural fit to join our team and lead marketing as we continue driving the positive momentum we have in the business,” Spiegel said.
Mitchell was also committed to following youth culture and media, sources said. Kelly worked with Mitchell during his time at MTV and later at AwesomenessTV. Mitchell had led Gatorade’s long-form scripted drama series called “Versus” about female teen athletes for AwesomenessTV, which premiered on Verizon’s go90. He also worked on an MTV documentary about high school basketball called “Nothing But Net,” which was cosponsored by Gatorade and Nike.
“As a partner, Kenny gets the best out of the people who work with him. He has a very clear vision but is open-minded and pragmatic. At MTV, he supported a joint initiative with Nike knowing that while another partner means another voice, but it served the ultimate objective,” Kelly said.
Mitchell’s willingness to take risks and collaborate has been met with respect externally and internally. One of Mitchell’s colleagues at Gatorade in the marketing department described him as an “amazing leader” and “extremely smart.” The marketer also noted how Mitchell will be reuniting with Jeff Miller, Snap’s global head of business marketing, who served as director of digital strategy at Gatorade from 2014 to 2016. “They were the Gatorade digital brain trust,” the marketer said.
Mitchell starts at Snap in June. He’ll be moving from Chicago to Los Angeles to work out of Snap’s headquarters. Snap recently launched its new Android app and with it a consumer marketing campaign, which includes running digital ads on other platforms like Twitter.
“I think what I’m most excited about is that he’s proven he understands the platform. He did a long time ago when others thought it was just a joke,” said a Snap employee.