Burger King touts 'fire grill advantage'

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Burger King positions its flame-broiled burgers as comparable to patties straight off the backyard barbecue in a branding effort themed, "The fire's ready."

CEO Brad Blum unveiled to more than 2,000 franchisees and employees his plan to revive the No. 2 chain with better food, service and corporate support for downtrodden owner/operators. The strategy centers on marketing and operational programs to reinforce the "fire grilled advantage" as key to differentiating Burger King from the competition.

"Flame broiling, that's the old Burger King," said Mr. Blum, adding that he is focusing the entire organization around fire grilling. "It's not just changing two words. It's a complete new vision."

He added that "The only place we will accept being second is to consumers grilling in their own backyards." He cautioned, however, that the tagline is only in test for the chain, and may change slightly.

Created by newly hired WPP Group agency Y&R Advertising, New York, the TV and radio campaign blends humor, product and passion for grilling to amplify perceptions that food cooked over an open fire is preferable to fried alternatives.

four directors

"The use of Weber grills in the spots connotes how special the [fire grilling] cooking process is to people at home and ties into what we do," said one franchisee.

Y&R shot the spots in New York and Los Angeles with four directors, including Joe Pytka, David Cornell and Simon Blake. They are reminiscent of the 1986 "Burger King Town" effort that used vignettes of people grilling on patios to emphasize home-cooked taste. Mr. Blum said the ads strive for a strong emotional connection "which we think, candidly, has been lacking a bit."

Burger King's $300 million media budget will focus on TV and radio to drive awareness. Mr. Blum said the company was diverting $35 million from its spot TV budget into network TV. That's a departure from McDonald's Corp., which has twice the ad budget and said last month it wants to lessen its reliance on mass-market media vehicles.

Burger King in July will roll out three new sandwiches, including a Great American Burger with au jus sauce, a Sourdough Chicken Caesar Club and a Fire Roasted Chicken sandwich dressed with roasted peppers and onions and roasted salsa on a baguette. The latter boasts just four grams of fat.

Mr. Blum vowed at the meeting to make food the primary focus, reinforcing that value is defined as more than discounting.

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