McDonald's Puts U.S. Creative Account Into Review

Chain Issues RFP for U.S. Creative Work Currently Split Between DDB and Leo Burnett

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McDonald's is issuing a request for proposals to three major holding companies to find a single creative agency to work on its massive U.S. business.

McDonald's currently has Omnicom's DDB and Publicis' Leo Burnett handling the bulk of its national advertising. Both Omnicom and Publicis are part of the RFP process that begins Monday, along with WPP.

The move comes as McDonald's has determined that it wants a more uniform set of creative and strategic ideas. It also wants to be able to push those concepts more rapidly across the variety of channels where it puts its messaging, including everything from its mobile app to television commercials.

DDB and Leo Burnett were not immediately available to comment on Monday.

It is the first RFP going out under U.S. Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Wahl, who joined McDonald's in March 2014.

"To be the modern and progressive company that we want to be, we have to create more immersive consumer engagement," Ms. Wahl said in an interview with Ad Age. "We need the support of an omnichannel integrated agency resource that can support our marketing efforts today and then prepare us also as the future continues to evolve."

The search comes as McDonald's has some momentum. The Golden Arches on Friday posted a first-quarter sales gain of 5.4% at longstanding U.S. restaurants, exceeding Wall Street's expectations.

"We're expecting that our new agency resource is going to work with us on our strategy and content creation for all our customer facing efforts," Ms. Wahl said.

The search does not impact the company's various other agencies such as multicultural creative partners, longtime PR agency Golin, media agency OMD or the advertising agencies that work directly with regional co-ops on local campaigns. The company is not asking for a new tagline to replace the longstanding "I'm lovin' it" line, Ms. Wahl said.

The process, which McDonald's is handling with consultant Flock, is the latest sign that the Golden Arches is taking a very close look at all aspects of its business.

McDonald's has been working on a major transformation under CEO Steve Easterbrook and U.S. President Mike Andres. Under their leadership, McDonald's reversed a two-year decline in U.S. comparable sales in the third quarter of 2015. More recently, sales have been buoyed by the October rollout of All Day Breakfast and McPick 2 value offers that were introduced early in 2016 before the return of the chain's Monopoly promotion.

McDonald's spent $1.42 billion on U.S. advertising in 2014, making it the 26th largest advertiser in the country, according to the Ad Age Datacenter.

McDonald's CMO Deborah Wahl will present "Listening Works: Finding and Addressing Consumer Needs" at Ad Age's Brand Summit in Chicago on May 5. Learn more and register here.

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