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Forget Marshall McLuhan's "The medium is the message." Fast-food marketing kingpin David Green says today the marketer is the medium.

"McDonald's is like a fourth network," says Mr. Green, senior exec VP-marketing. "We interact more with our customers than the networks do."

McDonald's belief that its 10,600 U.S. stores are the best conduit for communicating brand benefit might surprise the major media, who rely on the chain's massive $425 million advertising budget.

Such is the power of Mr. Green, the biggest, baddest kid on the fast-food block. Given the weight of McDonald's sheer spending clout, Mr. Green, 50, might tower over the second-largest power player in the industry, Burger King Corp.'s Exec VP-Worldwide Marketing Paul Clayton. But with $200 million in media spending-less than half McDonald's-Mr. Clayton has an advertising budget large enough to assure he'll have it his way.

The third fast-feeder to make the Power 50 is Scott Bedbury, the ex-Nike marketing executive who moved to the red-hot Starbucks Coffee Co. earlier this year. While his budget is a paltry $7 million, Mr. Bedbury's reputation for marketing innovation and track record at Nike guarantee the fast-expanding Starbucks a place on the to-watch list.

Unlike other categories, fast-food is both a major advertiser and a major ad vehicle; McDonald's and Burger King's network of restaurants make them extremely popular promotional partners for entertainment marketers, sports properties (see Pages S-18 and S-24) and anyone else looking for 10,000 points of access.

Amid the burger chains' competition to win Walt Disney Co. tie-ins, one fact tends to get overlooked: McDonald's and Burger King do as much for movies as movies do for them.

The chains tender $40 million to $50 million to advertise and promote key summer movies, roughly four times what movie studios spend. With most studios-except Disney-that media war chest gives fast-feeders the leverage to shape movie content, or at least place their products in frame after frame.

McDonald's particularly has enough clout to make or break agencies. Under Mr. Green's direction, the company streamlined marketing programs across the country to help the marketer speak with one voice. To accomplish this, McDonald's has shifted much of its local media buying into national network buys. That move has been a blessing for national agencies Leo Burnett USA and DDB Needham Worldwide, but left many small, local shops searching for life after McDonald's.

Mr. Clayton, meanwhile, has rebuilt BK into a contender through Whopper-focused ads and powerful partnerships with Disney's "Lion King" and "Pocahontas."

What else does BK have? "Tenacity and competitive spirit," says Mr. Clayton.

He's certainly not resting on that recent tie-in success. The Disney phenomenon has convinced Mr. Clayton, 37, to broaden Burger King's promotional calendar this fall with a tie-in to college football. But partner wannabes need not line up outside BK's Miami headquarters: Mr. Clayton says the marketer will limit itself to football and Disney tie-ins.

Partners already have lined up behind Starbucks and Mr. Bedbury, the 39-year-old senior VP-marketing who's predicting "Nike-like growth" for the restaurant brand and its media budget.

Already, he's helped guide Starbucks through an agency change, from Evans Group, Seattle, to San Francisco creative hothouse Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, which landed Starbucks' hotly contested account this summer and will lead the company through its first major branding campaign next year.

As Starbucks strengthens its domestic stance, the 600-unit chain is preparing to expand overseas; analysts have pegged Europe and Japan as likely points of entry.

Moreover, Mr. Bedbury will aim to maximize co-branding partnerships, such as the company's relationship with Pepsi-Cola Co., with whom Starbucks developed a carbonated coffee beverage called Mazagran. In one of the oddest combinations yet, Starbucks and Redhook Ale Brewery last month introduced Double Black Stout, a coffee-and-beer combination.

If nothing else, Mr. Bedbury's power lies in his command of a powerful drug: caffeine.

"Every day, two billion people wake up and their first thought is a cup of coffee," he says.

"The category potential is huge."


Scott Bedbury

Starbucks Coffee Co.

Ad budget: $7 million

Agency: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners

Career: When Mr. Bedbury joined Nike in 1987, that marketer's media budget was $20 million. When he left seven years later as global advertising director, he was commanding a $300 million budget. After graduation from the University of Oregon, Mr. Bedbury briefly worked for Steinfeld Products, a Portland food-products company, where he loaded trucks and "tried to raise the per capita consumption of sauerkraut." From there, he joined Cole & Weber, Seattle, as VP-account supervisor before moving to Nike.


Paul Clayton

Burger King Corp.

Ad budget: $200 million

Agency: Ammirati & Puris/Lintas

Career: Mr. Clayton knows his competition well: In his first job after graduating from Boston College in 1980, he worked for McDonald's restaurant operations in Germany. Hired at BK by his mentor, Exec VP-Marketing Don Dempsey, in 1984, Mr. Clayton started out in field marketing. He eventually moved to VP-Northeast region and, in 1993, VP-marketing for Burger King USA. He took his current post later that year. His take on fast-food life in Germany? "Exactly the same," he says, "except there's no competition."


David Green

McDonald's Corp.

Ad budget: $425 million

Agency roster: Leo Burnett USA, DDB Needham Worldwide

Career: With McDonald's for over a decade, serving as VP-national marketing before being promoted to the second-in-command marketing post under Paul Schrage, senior executive VP-chief marketing officer. Mr. Green, a self-described technology enthusiast, has pioneered McDonald's online marketing efforts, including this fall's "McFamily" site on America Online and MicroSoft Network.

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