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Hungry for help in its battle with mighty McDonald's Corp., Burger King Corp. seven years ago decided to split its account between two big agencies. Four years and several campaigns later, the No. 2 fast-food chain decided leaner was better, and went back to one.

In that spring of '89, Burger King had replaced N W Ayer, New York, with D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles and Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising on its $215 million account. Burger King assigned DMB&B its "brand image" efforts and Saatchi its price and product promotion business.

That fall, the two agencies co-produced a new campaign around the tagline, "Sometimes you've gotta break the rules."

Other advertising followed, with DMB&B gradually becoming the dominant agency; by 1993, Saatchi's sole responsibility was kids' advertising.

There are lessons to be learned from Burger King's experience, said David Hale, a former DMB&B creative director who helped develop "break the rules."

"Splitting agencies works better in theory than in practice. It should work, but it hasn't," said Mr. Hale, founder of the Resistance, a creative consultancy.

One problem with Burger King, he said, was that each agency developed a good relationship with a different client marketing executive, one of whom reported to the other. That made it harder for both agencies to get their work approved.

But Gary Langstaff, a Burger King exec VP-marketing at the time and now an independent consultant, insists a dual-agency system can "absolutely work" provided a marketer can establish "clearly defined roles and responsibilities, managed strategies and a professional relationship with the agencies."

Ultimately, a management transition led to another review in the fall of 1993, with Ammirati Puris Lintas winning the whole account early the next year.

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