Since late 1994, Mr. Clayton has let the Whopper shine, stripping Burger King of the table service and meatloaf-let alone "BK Tee Vee" ads-that threatened to drown the chain's core equities.
Mr. Clayton, 38, and former BK CEO James B. Adamson began Burger King's back-to-basics drive with an agency review in late 1993, tapping Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York, to revive the chain's flame-broiled, have-it-your-way heritage.
In 1996, Burger King executed the strategy with food-focused ads set to popular music from the '70s and '80s. The musical spots help consumers make an emotional connection with Burger King, the chain believes.
Mr. Clayton says one of his favorite ads is "Still the One," the spot set to the tune of the song that told consumers the Whopper was still the best-tasting burger. That spot was designed to combat archrival McDonald's Corp.'s heavy ad spending behind the Arch Deluxe, and it worked.
Burger King's share of the $39 billion U.S. hamburger market grew a full point last year to 19.2%, while McDonald's dropped slightly to 41.9% from 42.3%, according to restaurant consultancy Technomic.
And even though McDonald's stole Burger King's promotional thunder by aligning with former BK partner Walt Disney Co., Burger King fought back by pairing this summer with the mighty "The Lost World: Jurassic Park," which pulled in a whopping $90 million at the box office in its first weekend.
"We have to have those strategic underpinnings, so we're not just depending on a hot property," Mr. Clayton says.