Expected to be chief of marketing

Brad A. Ball, senior VP of marketing for McDonald’s, is expected to move from flipping burgers to splicing film in a new role as chief of marketing for Warner Bros., sources said Monday.

Warner Bros. would not confirm the Ball appointment, saying only that he is a leading contender for the post. Ball could not be reached for comment.

Ball is expected to take over the position left vacant after former prexy of marketing Chris Pula was dismissed from the studio last winter, after just a year on the job.

If the job solidifies, Ball will be walking into a firestorm at Warners, which has suffered at the box office in the last 12 months thanks to disastrous releases “The Postman,” “Mad City,” “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” “Father’s Day,” “Sphere” and disappointments in “Batman and Robin” and “U.S. Marshals.”

According to insiders, Warners chairmen and co-CEOs Terry Semel and Bob Daly blame marketing for much of last year’s nightmare, though the production division under co-presidents Bill Gerber and Lorenzo Di Bonaventura has also assumed its share of responsibility.

Ball should fit in better with the suit-and-button-down-shirt corporate approach that Daly and Semel favor. Pula — who rode a bike, wore shorts to work on occasion and spoke his mind liberally — was often in conflict with the chairmen.

Ball was a senior exec at McDonald’s marketing when it suffered poor performance from its Arch Deluxe line and several other strategies last year.

Internally, some WB staffers are dismayed by the decision to bring in Ball, who has no experience in film marketing.

“It’s going to be a high learning curve,” said one source.

The source likened Ball’s potential posting to that of John Cywinski, who currently runs Disney’s marketing. Cywinski had been a senior exec on Burger King’s marketing team prior to joining the Mouse.

Ball’s appointment also could be problematic for Disney. Ball has worked closely with Disney, which has a long-term promotional agreement with McDonald’s on feature films. Disney insiders were somewhat worried that Ball might bring Mouse secrets into the WB fold.

Before joining McDonald’s in 1995, Ball spent nearly 25 years with the L.A.-based ad firm Davis, Ball & Colombatto, which was a leading regional ad agency for McDonald’s. He began his career as a field account exec on the McDonald’s account in 1972 and moved to the creative side as a copywriter, working his way up to co-president and partner at DBC.

(Chris Petrikin and Andrew Hindes contributed to this report.)

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