Burger King Splits With Lead Agency Mother

Creative Differences Cited As Reason For Latest in String of Agency Partings

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Burger King and its lead agency Mother have parted ways.

Mother has been the agency-of-record for the chain since February -- an appointment made year and a half after it began working with its then-lead agency, McGarryBowen -- but has been working with the company for more than two years. The split was believed to have been spurred by creative differences. Mother declined to comment, beyond stating that the split would not result in any layoffs at the shop.

One of Mother's last big campaigns for Burger King was for Satisfries.
One of Mother's last big campaigns for Burger King was for Satisfries.

The latest campaign from Burger King -- promoting a dollar item and a breakfast product -- was instead created by West Coast indie agency Pitch. The shop has worked with Burger King for years on kids' marketing but has steadily picked up more general market work over the last year.

Pitch declined to comment and referred calls to Burger King; Burger King did not immediately respond for comment.

One of the last Burger King campaigns from Mother was for Satisfries, unveiled in September with a massive marketing push. The product was hailed as revolutionary, containing 30% fewer calories and 40% less fat than McDonald's fries.

Latest shuffle
The split is the latest in what has been a series of recent agency shuffles at the fast feeder. Just weeks ago, Burger King named indie shop Horizon as its media agency after a review. The incumbent was Publicis Groupe's Starcom, which won the business in 2011. In March, Burger King named Alison Brod its consumer PR shop.

But agency changes have been frequent since Burger King ended its seven-year run with MDC's CP&B in 2011. Burger King named McGarryBowen its agency in June 2011, but less than six months later moved to a roster of agencies in early 2012 that included Mother, Ogilvy offshoot David, McGarryBowen and Pitch. Mother was named lead agency in February 2013.

The most recent agency changes follow the appointment of Eric Hirschhorn in June to oversee Burger King's North American marketing. The position was previously held by Alex Macedo, who was promoted to North American president. In October, Burger King said Axel Schwan would become global CMO, replacing Flavia Faugeres, who stepped down at year's end.

Burger King, like many other fast-food chains, has been heavily promoting value in the last year as consumer spending on restaurants continues to fluctuate. It has also been working to regain its footing as the No. 2 burger chain in the U.S. since Wendy's unseated it from that position in 2011.

Burger King and Wendy's sales were close in 2012, though. According to Technomic, Wendy's had $8.6 billion in U.S. systemwide sales that year and Burger King $8.59 billion. Wendy's systemwide sales were up by 1.2%, while Burger King's were up 2.9%, -- thanks in large part to its biggest menu overhaul ever, which included McDonald's-like items such as smoothies and salads.

In the third quarter of this year, Burger King posted a 0.9% global sales increase, but a 0.3% drop in the U.S. and Canada.

Burger King spent about $202.7 million on U.S. measured media in the first nine months of 2013, according to Kantar Media. In 2012, it spent $256 million, down 14.8% from $300.5 million in 2011.

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