Burger King and Crispin Split After Seven-Year Run

Move Comes After Global CMO Natalia Franco Departs

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In the wake of a marketing shakeup and new ownership at Burger King, the fast-food chain and its lead creative shop, MDC Partners' CP&B, are splitting up. The move comes after a more than seven-year partnership.

Said the companies in a joint statement: "Burger King Corp. and Crispin Porter & Bogusky have enjoyed a tremendously successful relationship over the past seven and a half years. During that time, our creative partnership resulted in countless innovative and engaging campaigns for the BK brand. We are incredibly proud of all that we have accomplished together, but have mutually decided that now is the right time to part ways. We are fans of each other's work and wish each other much success in the future."

The split follows major churn in the marketing suite at Burger King. In February the chain announced the departure of Exec VP-Global Chief Marketing Officer Natalia Franco, only nine months after she joined the fast feeder. Her predecessor, Russ Klein, took a leave of absence in September 2009, and the company confirmed his departure in November.

The news about Ms. Franco came in conjunction with changes to the company's global brand management and operations, as well as to its North American marketing structure. Burger King has aligned the company's global brand marketing and global operations teams to create a single function. Burger King's North American CMO, Mike Kappitt, who reported to Ms. Franco, left the company in December.

Burger King has been pulling back on its marketing budget slightly over the past three years; according to Kantar Media, it spent $301 million on domestic measured media in 2010, down from $308 million in 2009 and $327 million in 2008.

It wasn't immediately clear what impact the end of Burger King's partnership with its lead creative shop will have on its relationships with other agencies on its roster, such as WPP's Wunderman and independent Edelman.

Crispin, whose work for Burger King has ranged from the much talked-about Subservient Chicken web experiment to a Facebook stunt dubbed Whopper Sacrifice, is behind the restaurant's longtime (and some call creepy) "King" character. Whether the King will survive the chain's marketing changes isn't clear but recent executions have been more product-focused and have not featured the brand's spokes-character.

The split is a blow to CP&B because it means the loss of one of its biggest clients, and, along with Microsoft and Kraft, one of the few truly global pieces of business it works on as the agency tries to expand its footprint around the world.

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