Draft crowned king of burger team

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Burger King Corp. anointed the chairman of its promotions agency as the point person for its integrated marketing efforts. The move provides fresh evidence that marketing disciplines once dismissed as "below the line" are rising to new prominence in an economic environment in which sales are valued over brand-building.

Howard Draft, chairman-CEO of Interpublic Group of Cos.' DraftWorldwide, Chicago, will take the pole position among the fast-feeder's Interpublic agencies. His role is to coordinate the efforts of Draft with those of Interpublic siblings McCann-Erickson World-wide, New York, and Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis, which handle general market and kids' advertising, respectively, for the burger chain.

Burger King's desire to boost its bottom line goes beyond the current economic slump. Chairman-CEO John Dasburg has charged Chief Marketing Officer Chris Clouser with boosting sales over the next 18 months as parent Diageo prepares to spin the chain off as a public company.

Mr. Clouser announced the elevation of Mr. Draft at a meeting two weeks ago in New York with representatives from all the burger giant's agencies and marketing partners. The meeting was originally scheduled to be held at McCann's offices but was moved at the 11th hour to the China Club, a night club/restaurant partly owned by Kevin Berg, vice chairman of DraftWorldwide's promotional unit. At the meeting, Mr. Clouser called on the BK shops to make integration and knowledge-sharing their top priority, and named Mr. Draft as the overseer. "The first thing they've got to do is to have the agencies working much more closely together," said one executive who attended the meeting.

The executive said DraftWorldwide was given the lead role over the advertising agencies because, "It's all about the promotional calendar being the umbrella for whatever happens. Because of the time compression, it has to be that way, and that's why [Mr. Draft] has to be in charge."

Hand-picking an agency lieutenant marks Mr. Clouser's first move to put his stamp on a body of agencies he had no hand in selecting. Mr. Clouser joined the company in April, three months after the Interpublic triumvirate won the accounts, which have combined spending of an estimated $400 million.

For Mr. Draft, it means a more prominent role in the Interpublic spotlight. "He is in a position to make himself shine in the eyes of IPG," said another executive who was also present at the meeting. "If he pulls this off, he creates the model for the future." Mr. Draft was on vacation last week and did not return calls seeking comment.

Burger King's decision appeared to come as a surprise to some meeting participants, including Jim Heekin, chairman-CEO of McCann-Erickson WorldGroup, according to the second executive. But one insider disputed that notion, saying, "It's absolutely untrue. There is no question [Mr. Heekin] was aware of it beforehand and fully supported it." Mr. Heekin was also on vacation and unavailable for comment. Campbell Mithun President-CEO Les Mouser declined comment, as did Burger King.

Mr. Clouser quickly bonded with Mr. Draft, according to people close to the situation. "He became enamored with" Mr. Draft, said the first executive. "[Mr. Draft] told them what to do in the next six months. It was far more action-oriented."

Interpublic Chairman-CEO John J. Dooner Jr. is a believer in integrated marketing strategies and recently restructured the company to encourage alliances among its units. In the new structure, DraftWorldwide is part of a silo called the Partnership. McCann-Erickson Worldwide and Campbell Mithun are both part of the McCann-Erickson WorldGroup. Mr. Dooner was not available for comment.

Burger King's Mr. Dasburg is expected in coming months to present to parent company Diageo's board several spin-off options, from a partial public offering to a leveraged buyout. Presumably, the 18-month deadline coincides with Burger King's strategy to go public by December 2002 in order to avoid tax penalties. Because company officials earlier said Burger King needs to post at least two consecutive quarters of improved earnings before it can go public, the pressure is on to boost traffic and sales.

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