McGarryBowen, New York, is set to be named Burger King's new U.S. creative agency, according to people familiar with the matter. The win continues the Dentsu agency's new-business winning streak and means that BK will replace its agency of the past seven years, CP&B.
Other agencies involved in the review were Publicis Groupe 's Saatchi & Saatchi, Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann Erickson and a consortium of WPP agencies including CHI Partners (WPP's Ogilvy & Mather handles Burger King in Brazil, but also has global accounts of rival Yum Brands). The company is also conducting reviews in Spain and the U.K. Agencies involved either declined to comment or could not be reached by press time. Burger King did not immediately respond.
Burger King has been pulling back on its U.S. measured media budget slightly over the past three years; according to Kantar Media, it spent $301 million on domestic measured media in 2010, down from $308 million in 2009 and $327 million in 2008. WPP's Mindshare, New York, handles media services for Burger King.
In an unusual move, the review was conducted even though Burger King currently has no CMO. In February Burger King announced the departure of Exec VP-Global Chief Marketing Officer Natalia Franco, nine months after she joined. Her predecessor, Russ Klein, took a leave of absence in September 2009, and the company confirmed his departure in November. The company, in conjunction with Ms. Franco's departure, also realigned its global brand management and operations into one streamlined function. Burger King's North American CMO, Mike Kappitt, who reported to Ms. Franco, left the company in December.
The win is the second in a row for McGarryBowen. Last week, Ad Age first reported the news of the agency's Chicago office being tapped to handle creative for Sears. But the agency has been on a steady and lengthy winning streak long before then, picking up over the last couple years a sizeable chunk of the Kraft business, including Oscar Mayer, Lunchables, Crystal Light, Kraft Singles, Chips Ahoy, Fig Newtons, Nabisco 100-Calorie Packs and Maxwell House. The agency also produced some Bud Light ads for this year's Super Bowl and last year took a big chunk of Verizon business from McCann Erickson.
McGarryBowen now faces a formidable challenge of helping reverse Burger King's sales woes. The No. 2 burger chain in the U.S. has been on a streak of its own: continual negative same-store sales. Burger King saw a spike in sales after CP&B signed on, but sales turned south in 2009, and have continued through first-quarter 2011, the most recent quarter reported.
Burger King, which is under new management, and its former creative agency, MDC Partners' CP&B, in March announced they would split. After CP&B took hold of the creative reins seven years ago, it reinstated the King mascot in a more caricatured manner, and also revived the "Have it your way" motto, both of which were used in decades past.
The Miami Herald reported Monday that the King is going on hiatus. Indeed, the King has been gradually fading from the spotlight in ads over the last several months, as the company increasingly switches to product-based promotions, like ads for its Whopper and chicken sandwiches and nuggets.
Also according to the article, the company will do away with the steady stream of $1 value-menu promotions. Franchisees had been at odds with Burger King over marketing, as well as with the low price of $1 double cheeseburgers -- a price the company eventually bumped up.
To turn sales around, it looks like Burger King wants to take a completely different direction marketing-wise in this post-CP&B era. Ad Age has learned that that the fast feeder not only wanted agencies involved in the creative review to pitch ideas that do not include the King in his current form, it also asked review participants to submit ideas that do not include the longstanding "have it your way" tagline, according to people familiar with the request for proposals.