DDB Needham takes McDonald's lead role

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DDB Needham Worldwide has walked away with most of the creative portion of McDonald's Corp.'s $500 million domestic account, winning control of adult and promotion advertising as well as overall brand positioning and creative direction. Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, will retain kids and teen advertising, but media buying for adults is still up for grabs.

"The decision regarding media-buying responsibilities for our adult and promotional business will be announced over the next 90 days," said McDonald's USA Senior VP Marketing Brad Ball. It's believed that Burnett will keep media buying for kids; DDB is said to have been already given media planning on its portion of the business but that could not be confirmed at fax deadline.

The shift leaves Burnett, which formerly held an estimated 85% of the McDonald's business, about 33% and boosts Needham's share from about 15% to 66%. Needham had mainly done movie and game promotions for McDonald's and now adds sports promotion work.

DDB Needham's pitch centered around the theme line, "Did somebody say McDonald's?" and positioned the marketer as a cultural icon. The concept is intended to remind consumers that McDonald's was the site of landmarks in their lives, such as their first date.

For Burnett, the loss is huge both financially and psychologically, given the agency in recent months has lost creative responsibilites for several major clients including United Airlines and Miller Brewing Co. The agency also resigned Reebok and lost major pitches for Ameritech and MasterCard. The agency appears to be putting its best face on the loss_an internal memo on the subject stressed the importance of McD's kids' advertising and made no mention of the contest for media buying. Burnett said through a spokesman, "We are as committed as ever to our global partnership with McDonald's."

An internal memo signed by Leo Burnett Chairman Rick Fizdale said it was still too early to say what staffing changes would result from the McDonald's decision, and that there would "likely be a redeployment of people based on a number of promising new business opportunities."

"This significant change becomes effective immediately, and we expect DDB Needham to be fully engaged as we begin the process of developing and executing our 1998 marketing plans," said Mr. Ball. The company's new marketing calendar begins in September, when DDB's campaign is scheduled to break.

Local agency relationships aren't affected by the shift, McDonald's said.

Copyright July 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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