Big cheeses in burger wars exit agencies for new jobs

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Two agency executives who helped create popular campaigns for two leading fast-food chains are leaving their respective posts.

Jim Ferguson, a key member on the team responsible for McDonald's current tagline, "Did somebody say McDonald's?" will leave DDB Needham Worldwide, Dallas, for the vacant post of president at Y&R Advertising, New York.

Separately, Jonathan Mandell, who was instrumental in Burger King's retro food/music campaign from Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York, will move to N.W. Ayer & Partners as worldwide chief creative officer, effective May 3.


"This is an opportunity to put my stamp not only on a piece of business, but on an agency," said Mr. Mandell, currently exec VP-managing director, creative, at Ammirati.

His departure comes amidst other shake-ups at Ammirati. Last week, Rick Hadala stepped down as New York and North American chairman-CEO. And Ammirati may be losing another staffer on the Burger King account.

An Ammirati spokesman declined comment about the departures. But Nancy McNalley, director-client services, said the team is still in "good hands," adding that the agency expects to name a successor soon for Mr. Mandell.

James Watkins, BK's senior VP-marketing, said the agency is on solid ground.

Ammirati has handled the $404 million Burger King Corp. account since 1994, following years of agency switches by the marketer. In fact, BK was at Ayer from 1987 to 1989.

Yet, Ayer CEO Mary Beth Casey said the agency has "no plans" to go after that business.

The executive shift comes as Burger King franchisees meet this week for their annual convention, where they will see new advertising and a prototype unit designed to freshen the chain's image.

Some observers said Burger King's campaign, launched in November 1996, may be becoming stale. The creative mixes food shots with popular tunes and, for the past year, has ended with the theme--created by Mr. Mandell--"It just tastes better."


Mr. Watkins said the ads still play well among consumers, and there are no plans to change the campaign for now. He didn't rule out exploration of new creative, however.

"We always look at whether there are ways to take consumer communication and TV advertising to the next level," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ferguson's departure from DDB Needham likely will have fewer repercussions. Although he once led the McDonald's creative, he has not worked directly on the account for some months.

Mr. Ferguson was an integral member of the DDB Needham team responsible for the high-profile win of McDonald's Corp.'s $570 million adult account from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, in 1997.

The account is handled out of Chicago, and Mr. Ferguson steadfastly remained in Dallas, where he has deep roots.

In another development last week, BBDO Worldwide, New York, lost John Berg, who was exec VP-managing director and worked on Pizza Hut, to Wenner Media.

Contributing: Beth Snyder.

Copyright April 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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