VML's kingly strategy

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Although Burger King Corp. is just now officially dubbing WPP Group's VML, Kansas City, Mo., its interactive agency of record (AA, Sept. 3), the team already has put in place an Internet strategy aimed at making it easier for consumers to "search the kingdom."

"Our ultimate goal is to find a way to use the online world to sell hamburgers," said Scott McCormick, VML co-founder and president. "There isn't a quick-service restaurant out there that has been able to solve that problem." Since customers still need to visit restaurants to get a burger, VML's team must settle for using the online experience to build brand loyalty.

There are a few things they have to do first.

Like most marketers, much of the access and resources Burger King assembled for the Internet was done on an ad-hoc basis, said Hal Rossiter, senior director-interactive and loyalty marketing for the Diageo brand. Roster shops, primarily from Interpublic Group of Cos., have handled various aspects of the online assignment, with Draft Worldwide being the primary online resource. Much of the advertising business was consolidated at Interpublic in December; Chief Marketing Officer Chris Clouser, who joined the company in April, had worked with VML when he held top marketing posts at Northwest Airlines and Sprint.

VML's work for Burger King will include developing an extranet for franchisees, redesigning the marketer's Web site and synchronizing it as a promotional tool into the offline marketing effort, Mr. McCormick said.

These include existing efforts such as the "Cash is King" game slated for October and New Line Cinema's "Lord of the Rings" film tie-in. "The more we engage our customers the better chance we have of obtaining their loyalty," Mr. Rossiter said, noting that tools including wireless may be used to more fully engage customers, particularly heavy users. In April, Burger King partnered with Go2 Systems to create a wireless store locator.

The site did some things quite well, but site navigation and graphics were put together piecemeal as components were introduced, so basic architecture "needs a lot of attention," Mr. McCormick added.

He wouldn't disclose Burger King's anticipated online spending.

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