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Serving burgers with Krystal

McKinney & Silver, Raleigh, N.C., really did its homework to bag its first fast-feeder, southeastern burger chain Krystal Co. "Once we got the strategy down, our creative team blew out every idea through that dimension of their business, from business building to internal communication," says Prez-CEO Don Maurer. To make sure everyone pitching the $15 million to $18 million account understood the specialness of the tiny sandwiches, one staffer drove 3 hours to Charlotte and purchased 400 Krystal hamburgers and chicken sandwiches for the 146-person office. The agency videotaped the resulting burger bash, where it crowned a Krystal King -- Ken Marcus, copywriter on the account -- and Queen, account exec Jennifer Johnston. Maurer and Sr. VP-Exec CD David Baldwin waged a Krystal eating contest; Maurer claims they tied at six Krystals each. "Them's fightin' words," Baldwin disputes. "He's not factoring the six burgers and three Krystal Chiks I ate."

How Microsoft landed in .NET

Tidbits on Microsoft, as it lurches along on its antitrust roller-coaster ride:

* The company is pegging a lot of hopes on .NET, its new strategy to distribute software and services via the Internet. But where'd the name come from? VP-Marketing Mich Mathews says a small group of executives hunkered down in a room and cooked it up: "It was Steve [Ballmer, president-CEO], others and myself." When it came down to it, though, Ballmer coined the name, apparently without a lot of input from Waggoner-Edstrom, Microsoft's longtime PR agency, or McCann-Erickson/A&L, San Francisco and New York, its ad agency.

* On the ad/PR front, Microsoft seems determined to keep putting its leading luminary -- Bill Gates, chairman and chief software architect -- out on the TV airwaves. Gates' starring role in PSA-like TV spots sparked a host of critics, mostly brand consultants, agency types and other pundits, though surveys show the American public mostly likes the top 'Softy. Ad Age's Bob Garfield in a recent Newsweek article likened Gates' appearances to Mr. Rogers. Adages wants to know what's next, an appearance on "Sesame Street," maybe with Gates' two kids? "Well, they haven't called yet," Mathews says.

Pizza Height . . . character builder

Pizza Hut is giving the cash-strapped Russian space program a lift(off). The Tricon Global Restaurants chain's logo will appear on the fuselage of a rocket the Russians will send aloft July 12, carrying the permanent living capsule of the International Space Station. More than 500 million viewers around the globe are expected to watch the launch. . . . Now that Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, will be all it can be for the U.S. Army (see story on Page 6), shouldn't the agency turn to one of its specialties -- creating friendly ad-creatures? After all, it's already enlisted one Doughboy.

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