Burger King to Boost Ad Spending

TV to Get the Biggest Share as Fast Feeder's CMO Says Brand Needs to Stay 'Front and Center' in Tough Times

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- As many marketers cut back in the downturn, Burger King is just beginning to turn up the heat. The burger baron plans to ratchet up spending by double digits for its fiscal year beginning this August -- and TV will be the biggest beneficiary.

Russ Klein
Russ Klein
Burger King estimates its push, combined with declining media costs, will raise its media impressions an impressive 20% to 25%.

'Front and center'
In an interview with Advertising Age, the chain's chief marketing officer, Russ Klein, said it's critical for the brand to boost spending now. "With the economic downturn, it's important for us to be front and center with value messaging, innovation and strategy," he said. "And there is strong historical evidence around companies that step up with their innovation and advertising and their ability to move through economic downturns and they emerge with stronger brands on the other end."

According to TNS Media Intelligence, Burger King spent $294 million in measured media during 2008; Burger King's creative agency is Crispin, Porter & Bogusky, Miami.

Mr. Klein said the company will fund the hike by drawing on money generated by soft-drink sales. He declined to tip his hand on the exact amount of the increase, noting that that the "upfront" season, when marketers negotiate their ad time for the fall TV season, have not been held yet.

Though Burger King might get four times the messaging out, it won't lack for products to advertise. It has a slew of new lines on the horizon, made possible by next-generation batch broilers that the chain is rolling out system-wide. Many of the new items are premium dishes, expected to compete with casual dining, such as bone-in ribs, kabobs, grilled fish and grilled chicken. Mr. Klein has said that he expects the effect on Burger King to be "transformational."

Steakhouse XT launch
The first big media splash will come next January, Mr. Klein said, when Burger King launches the Steakhouse XT, a premium, thicker burger made possible by the new batch broilers. The chain will hold on to its traditional four- to six-week promotional windows, but increase spending by 50% to 100% during those periods. TV will get the biggest share of the increase.

"There is no way to replace television," Mr. Klein said, underscoring the broad reach of the medium. "So that's going to get the largest single increase on the calendar."

The second big buy is slated for summer 2010. Burger King is planning a "major gaming event" next summer, which Mr. Klein similarly declined to disclose. Summer is the biggest season for fast food, and the time of year when chains battle one another for the best entertainment tie-ins. Last summer Burger King partnered with an enviable slate of family-oriented films including "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" and "Iron Man," which has a sequel slated for next summer.

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