Wendy's Taps WPP's VML for Digital Duties

Fast Feeder's CMO Says Double-Digit Increase in Digital, Social Spend Planned

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Kansas City-based digital shop VML has been named Wendy's lead digital agency after a review.

Wendy's CMO Craig Bahner told Ad Age that "during the process [VML] best demonstrated they had the track record, client list and strategic thinking and creative firepower to explode our digital effort." He added that the No. 2 burger chain is getting more aggressive with digital and is "planning a double-digit increase" in digital and social marketing in 2013.

CMO Craig Bahner
CMO Craig Bahner

The review was managed internally; besides WPP-owned VML the other participants were not known. The digital portion of Wendy's marketing account was previously handled by the chain's lead agency, Publicis Groupe 's Kaplan Thaler.

But Mr. Bahner reiterated that the chain's partnership with Kaplan Thaler is solid and "we're looking forward to continuing our strong partnership into the future."

Earlier this year the agency created the campaign that still runs today, which includes the new tagline, "Now that 's better" and features TV spots that include Wendy Thomas, daughter of founder Dave Thomas, and another Wendy-type character who promotes products.

Among some of Wendy's recent digital efforts are a nutritional mobile app that lets users choose items according to calorie count. VML may be involved in the chain's moves to explore using mobile payment systems with consumers. The chain is set to test a mobile payment app next month, but Mr. Bahner declined to provide details.

Wendy's is in the midst of what it calls a turnaround. In the second quarter it posted North American same-store sales growth of 3.2%, the fifth-consecutive quarter of growth, although in the first quarter its growth was negligible at less than 1%. In 2011, the chain became the nation's second-largest burger chain by sales, according to Technomic, while Burger King dropped to No. 3.

Wendy's in 2011 spent about $273 million in the U.S. on measured media, according to Kantar Media. That's slightly less than in previous years. In 2010 it spent $282 million and $296 million in 2009.

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