Burger King Names David Lead Global Agency

Chain Worked With Shop in Brazil, Argentina and Parts of U.S.

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Burger King has tapped WPP's David as its lead global agency.

Burger King Global CMO Axel Schwan
Burger King Global CMO Axel Schwan

Founded in 2011 by Latin American Ogilvy execs, David will help the fast-food chain execute global work so that the brand has a more consistent global image.

The move comes after close to three years of no global agency watching over the brand. MDC's CP&B handled the chain's U.S. work until 2011 and fielded some work overseas during its seven-year tenure as lead agency. But the scope with David will likely be more comprehensive and aim to create a more cohesive message around the world, said Global Chief Marketing Officer Axel Schwan.

"Since the beginning of the year we have been analyzing the Burger King brand to understand what guests perceive as good, and where there's an opportunity [to improve perception]," said. Mr. Schwan. He added that two major priorities for the brand now are global brand positioning and marketing consistency around the globe.

Burger King will continue to use its agencies in the U.S. (in the states it works with Pitch, Code & Theory and Horizon Media), and overseas to handle work on a more local level. Overseas, Burger King recently parted ways with CHI & Partners, its agency in the U.K.

David's global appointment follows a shift in Burger King's marketing ranks. In October, the chain named Mr. Schwan global CMO, succeeding Flavia Faugeres, who exited in late 2013. In March, the fast-feeder tapped former Unilever exec Fernando Machado as senior VP-global brand marketing, a new role the company established to refresh the brand on a global level. Last June, Eric Hirschhorn was named its new North American chief marketing officer.

Fernando Machado
Fernando Machado

Mr. Schwan described Mr. Machado's role as "another layer" in the chain's marketing C-suite -- one that's dedicated to ensuring Burger King's brand message is consistent and to develop stronger "emotional brand connections" in consumers.

Burger King back in January parted ways with Mother, which was its lead agency in the U.S. At the time, the chain said in a statement that "as part of an overall agency review led by new Global Chief Marketing Officer Axel Schwan with the support of North America Chief Marketing Officer Eric Hirschhorn, BKC is conducting a search for a global lead advertising agency of record that will strengthen the brand's image around the world."

Several agencies outside the Burger King roster were awaiting a request for proposal for a pitch, but it never came. In fact, rather than review, the chain decided to simply look at its existing list of agencies to discover the best fit. David had already been producing work for Burger King in Argentina, Brazil, and had also worked on some campaigns in the U.S., including the Whopper's 55th anniversary campaign in 2012. Most recently, David helped out on this week's resurrection of the Subservient Chicken campaign.

The move was somewhat serendipitous, said Mr. Machado, noting that he hadn't worked with David before, but knew the executives behind it from his days at Unilever. "It was a very good coincidence," he said. "Why open up and do a pitch when you already have an agency with whom you could develop a relationship further?"

While at Unilever, Mr. Machado was behind Dove's Real Beauty, a massive campaign largely handled by Ogilvy. David, named after the legendary David Ogilvy, was founded by Latin American Ogilvy execs Gaston Bigio, Anselmo Ramos and Fernando Musa.

Mr. Ramos, who worked on the Dove Real Beauty "Sketches" campaign as executive creative director at Ogilvy Brasil, said that he'll be relocating to Miami for the opening of David's office there in May. The shop also has offices in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Buenos Aires. Mr. Ramos said that Burger King was the first client in those offices, which opened in 2011.

Anselmo Ramos
Anselmo Ramos

In the U.S., Los Angeles-based Pitch has been acting as lead agency since Mother split with Burger King. Pitch declined to comment whether it was, in fact, named U.S. lead agency, and Mr. Schwan said only that "Pitch is a longstanding partner and will continue to work on U.S. advertising. We have collaborated on many effective campaigns and look forward to continuing to work together in support of our global vision."

Burger King on Friday posted its first quarter earnings. Global same-store sales rose 2.0%, and sales in the U.S. and Canada were up 0.2%. Executives for the chain during an earnings call said that the move to roll out fewer but "more impactful" products in the U.S., including the Chicken Big King, has paid off for the company, despite a challenging winter thanks to severe weather.

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