BK cashes in with 'King'

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Undeterred by McDonald's fast-food game scandal, rival Burger King Corp. is preparing what's believed to be its first major instant-win game.

Now slated for Oct. 1, the promotion is themed "Cash is King" and is a custom-branded game designed to make "every Whopper a Winner." The promotion will be topped off with a $1 million cash prize, along with a variety of free food and cash instant-wins.

A Burger King spokeswoman declined to comment, saying "We haven't announced anything on that."

TV spots supporting "Cash is King" are believed to be from Uniworld, New York, and are expected to break Sept. 30. Interpublic Group of Cos.' DraftWorldwide and its D.L. Blair unit, both Chicago, are handling game administration and in-store promotion. New interactive agency of record, WPP Group's VML, Kansas City, Mo., met last week with Burger King to discuss online efforts for the game (See story on Burger King's interactive strategy, P. 28). Agencies referred calls to the client.

"They have been a little wary given what happened to McDonald's, but they still plan to go ahead with [the game]," said a production executive familiar with the promotion. The executive was referring to revelations by McDonald's Corp. and the FBI that at least one staffer from the fast-feeder's promotion agency, Simon Marketing, Los Angeles, allegedly bilked consumers out of millions in prizes over several years. McDonald's fired Simon after announcing the scam, which so far has brought 21 indictments.

In August, the McDonald's situation gave pause to the Diageo unit over the planning of its own game, which had been on its marketing calendar as a late summer/ early fall promotion. "All those plans were ... cast well before McDonald's had a problem," said Dan Fitzpatrick, co-chairman of Burger King's franchisee marketing advisory committee. "After the scandal, we met with Burger King management and discussed the processes, initiatives and security steps taken to ensure we won't result in a similar fate. I'm comfortable the way we are doing it."

Despite shaken consumer confidence following the recent terrorist attacks, fast-food sales were up 2% from Sept. 10-16, according to NPD's FoodWorld SalesTrac Weekly. For Burger King, the unusual promotion is aimed at building traffic, essential as the chain preens itself for sale. "You've got new management in Miami that is willing to try stuff," said an executive close to the marketer. "There are no hard-and-fast rules right now other than, `Let's try some things.' "

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