Burger King Taps Horizon for Media Duties

Move Follows Eric Hirschhorn Joining Fast-Feeder as CMO

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Burger King has named independent Horizon Media its new North American media agency after a review.

The incumbent was Publicis Groupe's Starcom, which picked up the chain's business in 2011 without a review. It's believed that Starcom may retain some Burger King business overseas. Horizon declined to comment.

"Horizon was selected due to its clear and compelling vision for driving growth for the Burger King brand," said Burger King North American Chief Marketing Officer Eric Hirschhorn. "Their unique understanding of the Burger King consumer, powered by its platform of proprietary tools, will help to drive a new level of insight, creativity and engagement across all channels."

Burger King Satisfries
Burger King Satisfries

The move comes after Burger King in March named Alison Brod its consumer PR shop and in February named Mother its new lead agency (McGarryBowen was previously that lead agency. Prior to naming that, it added Ogilvy offshoot David to its general-market roster and tapped Pitch, which had already been handling kids' marketing, as an official general-market roster shop. Until 2011, it worked with MCD's CP&B, which had been on the account nearly seven years.

The media assignment comes after Burger King in June brought on Mr. Hirschhorn to oversee North American marketing (former marketing exec Alex Macedo was promoted to North American president.) In October, Burger King said Axel Schwan would become global CMO, replacing Flavia Faugeres, who is stepping down at year's end.

Burger King, along with its competitors, have been heavily promoting value in 2013 as consumer confidence in the economy continues to sputter. One of Burger King's bigger promotions this year was its Two for $5 mix-and-match sandwich deal.

Unseated by Wendy's
Burger King in September unveilied its lower fat fries, Satisfries. The new fries are marketed as containing 30% fewer calories and 40% less fat than McDonald's fries. The smallest portion of the fries clock in at about 190 calories and will retail for about $1.29. Burger King's regular fries are still offered.

Burger King was recently unseated by Wendy's as the No. 2 burger chain in the U.S. by 2011 sales. The chain for years had been focusing primarily on its core user, young men, while competitors like McDonald's and Wendy's marketed to a more general audience and ultimately drew more customers in the door.

Burger King and Wendy's sales were neck-and-neck, however, in 2012. According to Technomic Wendy's had $8.6 billion in U.S. systemwide sales that year and Burger King $8.59 billion. Wendy's systemwide sales were up by 1.2%, while Burger King's were up 2.9%, -- thanks in large part to its biggest menu overhaul ever, which included McDonald's-like items such as smoothies and salads.

In the third quarter of this year, Burger King posted a 0.9% global sales increase, but a 0.3% drop in the U.S. and Canada.

Burger King spent about $202.7 million on U.S. measured media so far this year, according to Kantar Media. In 2012, it spent $256 million, down 14.8% from $300.5 million in 2011.

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