MCD'S READY TO AWARD MEDIA TO DDB NEEDHAM: WILL JOIN $300 MIL IN CREATIVE WORK EXITING BURNETT

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DDB Needham Worldwide will shortly receive the icing on the cake of its nearly $300 million in creative assignments for McDonald's Corp.-media buying for that business newly recaptured from Leo Burnett USA.

McDonald's Senior VP-USA Marketing Brad Ball told Advertising Age the agency has a virtual lock on the media buying, even though McDonald's official statement on the account shift last week said the "decision regarding media-buying responsibilities for our adult and promotional business [which went to DDB Needham from Burnett] will be announced over the next 90 days."

"We are doing the due diligence necessary to move the adult buying to DDB," Mr. Ball said, stressing that "there will be no shoot-out" for the media.

"It's in our best interest" to put adult creative and media buying at one agency, he said.

The two Chicago agencies have media planning for their respective business. Burnett kept McDonald's kids and teens advertising, softening the huge blow to the shop.

The tug of war over McDonald's $550 million account, one of the most closely watched in years, saw DDB Needham landing about 66% of the marketer's media spending-now totaling about $385 million-up from about 15%. In the process, Burnett ended its 15-year tenure as McDonald's leading agency, with its share of the account going from an estimated $472 million to $165 million, falling from 85% of McDonald's domestic business to 33%.

$1.2 BIL SHOP IN CHICAGO

The win strengthens DDB Needham's position as the No. 2 agency in Chicago, bringing its billings in the city from $903 million to $1.2 billion, according to Advertising Age figures. That still doesn't approach Burnett's estimated $2.2 billion-after its recent series of losses-mainly because all of Burnett's domestic accounts are handled in Chicago.

Regaining McDonald's is especially significant for DDB Needham because it's the culmination of Chairman-CEO Keith Reinhard's 15-year mission to bring back Big Mac. Mr. Reinhard, who was alone and drank a solo toast after hearing about the win at 11:45 p.m. July 28, had never fully recovered from the 1981 loss of the fast-food leader to Burnett.

`HOMECOMING'

"To me, it's an emotional homecoming of sorts," Mr. Reinhard said. "Your first love is always special. McDonald's gave me my first opportunity to do something big and national-it was an important part of my early career."

Mr. Reinhard's work on McDonald's yielded such enduring campaigns as the "Two all-beef patties" jingle and "You deserve a break today."

Mr. Reinhard wouldn't discuss details of the pitch. But he, along with Vice Chairman-Chief Creative Officer Bob Scarpelli, Dallas office Chief Creative Officer Jim Ferguson and Spike/DDB Creative Director Spike Lee did the majority of the presenting (AA, July 28).

Mr. Scarpelli kicked off the pitch by asking if anyone was hungry, while Mr. Reinhard said he could go for a burger and Mr. Ferguson said he'd like some fries. Then Mr. Lee chimed in with the tagline, "Did somebody say McDonald's?"

The strategy behind that winning theme is to use it as a starting point for myriad creative approaches, much as Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis, uses its creation of Dick as the basis for a far-ranging ad approach with Miller Lite.

A loyalty program was part of the pitch (see story above).

FERGUSON'S KEY ROLE

Mr. Ferguson was key to DDB Needham's pitch, since he cut his creative teeth on the McDonald's account at Burnett, where he had worked in the creative group under Chief Creative Officer Cheryl Berman.

About halfway through the 5-to-6-hour pitch-which included brief videotape appearances by Patrice Dermody, exec VP-media director; Don Hoffman, senior VP-group account director; and Marcia Metzcus, senior VP-group strategic planning director-window washers hanging outside the Amoco building unfurled a banner that faced into the conference room, reading "Did somebody say McDonald's?"

Burnett also wasn't above a little trick; it's said the agency, before its pitch, sent staffers up and down in the elevators with french fries to make them smell like a McDonald's.

Mr. Ball wouldn't comment on specifics of either Burnett's or DDB Needham's presentations. But one executive close to McDonald's said by comparison, Burnett's presentation, conducted by Ms. Berman, Chairman Rick Fizdale and President Jim Oates among others, ran long and was described as "dull."

While DDB Needham's pitch focused on the brand name and heritage, Burnett's is said to have centered more on food quality and included the theme, "Enjoy."

Observers said Burnett didn't have a fighting chance going in, noting that McDonald's was determined to show restive franchisees it was willing to change.

Moreover, it's said that suggestions by Burnett in its presentation that basic issues like food quality must be addressed were greeted angrily by McDonald's USA Chairman-CEO Jack Greenberg.

SWINGING PENDULUM

The pendulum has been swinging more toward DDB Needham internationally as well, where the agency now has McDonald's in 44 countries, as opposed to 19 countries for Burnett.

Burnett has made few public statements since the loss. But in an internal memo dated July 29, Mr. Fizdale indicates the agency might take a Reinhard-like approach to bringing McDonald's fully back into the fold.

"Now that McDonald's has made it's decision, we will continue to prove to them, as we do with other clients, that we are the absolute best agency for their needs," the memo said. "Over the years, assignments have moved back and forth between Burnett and Needham. We need to continue to focus on moving McDonald's business ahead. If we do that, we'll all move forward."

Contributing: Laura Petrecca, Chuck Ross.

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