Burger King Seeks Loyal Subjects

Campaign by TMP Worldwide Aims to Lure Job Seekers, not Hungry Masses

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A correction has been made in this story. See below for details.

CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- "Try it, you just might like it," is Burger King's latest pitch, but it's not for a sandwich. It's for prospective employees.

The fast-feeder is using tray liners and window clings in Burger King stores around the country to pitch a job at the chain. It is also posting video to online job sites featuring people it currently employs.

Career pitch comes later
Jose Tomas, Burger King's VP-human resources for the Americas, said the company found its ideal candidate wasn't necessarily looking for a career the first time they walked in for a job. "It wasn't really important for them to see themselves in a particular role 20 years from now," he said. "Once we have them working for us, we sell them on the value proposition of a long-term career."

Mr. Tomas said that although the economy is tight, his company has yet to see an increase in applications, although he hopes to. Burger King is also looking for more employees to fill in during expanded hours as the chain adds late-night shifts at some stores and others go 24 hour. Since many competitors are doing the same thing, Mr. Tomas said Burger King is competing for a shrinking pool of workers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of Americans ages 16 and over working for minimum wage was up slightly last year, to 1.72 million, from 1.69 million in 2006.

Taking a closer look
To increase the number of applicants, Mr. Tomas said, it was even more critical to raise traffic to its stores. "We discovered that individuals who applied in our restaurant are looking for employment along their travel path from home to school or around their neighborhood," he said. "It's so important to draw them in. A large number of folks will allow you to be more selective about who you're hiring."

The company also looked for more ways to increase the pool of potential workers. Together with agency TMP Worldwide Advertising & Communications, Burger King decided to target retirees, in addition to the usual 18- to 24-year-olds. They are also being targeted in videos TMP posted to online job boards.

Burger King's effort comes a year after McDonald's "It's not a McJob" campaign worked to beat back the impression that working for the Golden Arches was a dead-end job. A number of the company's franchisees and executives -- including CEO Jim Skinner -- got started behind the counter. (TMP regional VP Lesley DeCanio said her agency was not inspired by the McDonald's ads.)

Retention improves
McDonald's spokesman Bill Whitman said his company's efforts to highlight career opportunities have been ongoing for the past five years, and they have resulted in higher retention rates. He declined to say if applications have increased as a result of the McJob effort.

The McDonald's videos focus on company executives who got their start working at one of the company's restaurants. One of the Burger King ads by TMP profiles a senior at Purdue University who works as an assistant manager at a Lafayette, Ind., restaurant.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Burger King was using TV advertising for the campaign.
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