McCann snags Burger King account

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Burger King Corp., as expected, awarded McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, its U.S. adult general market advertising account, besting finalists Grey Worldwide, also New York; and Campbell Mithun Esty, Minneapolis. However, the Miami-based burger marketer, which spends a total of $400 million on advertising, withheld a decision on its kids' account pending two weeks of consumer testing. Grey, along with Interpublic Group of Cos.' Campbell Mithun and incumbent Lowe Lintas & Partners, New York, are still in the running for the kids' business. The inclusion of Lowe Lintas comes as a surprise since Burger King had earlier eliminated the agency from the review. Stefan Bomhard, senior VP-marketing for Burger King, said the purpose of splitting the account is to "Focus on finding a strong creative partner that can bring our kid proposition alive." He added, "We want to make sure we find the best partner for each individual piece of business."

The adult segment comprises the lion's share of the Burger King business, but the kids' and family segment accounts for about one-third of U.S. sales. This isn't the first time the country's No. 2 burger chain has split its general market and kids advertising--in 1989 it gave D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York, the main account and Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, New York, kids' work. In 1994, both accounts were consolidated at the shop then known as Ammirati Puris Lintas.

Burger King launched the current review in September after a rocky six years that included several stealth reviews and several management changes.

Lowe Lintas & Partners' contract with Burger King was supposed to expire Jan. 16, 2001, but Burger King extended its assignments to include February promotions. Lowe Lintas recently broke promotional spots for 99-cent chicken sandwiches using the former "food and music" creative concept where food montages are accompanied by 1970's and early 1980's music - in this case, Rick James' "Give it to me, Baby." The "Got the Urge?" tagline broken earlier this year is not used in the spot.

New work from McCann is expected in March that will focus on the Whopper. The agency emerged as an early front-runner after work presented by the agencies underwent extensive consumer research and testing, and McCann's work drew the most positive reaction. A major factor cited by several observers was the shop's experience with Coca-Cola Co.--the soft-drink partner of Burger King. The decision to split the accounts was made two weeks ago, according to a Burger King spokeswoman.

The kid's advertising will revolve around the chain's "Big Kids Meals," designed for pre-teens and will also be heavily consumer-driven, said the spokeswoman.

Campbell Mithun is considered the frontrunner for the kids advertising. Both the agency and Grey have several youth-oriented clients.

Campbell Mithun's roster includes, a fantasy sports Web site; KB Gear Interactive, a computer and digital-technology manufacturer; Coca-Cola's Minute Maid and Interstate Bakeries' Hostess. Observers speculate that Campbell Mithun's ownership by Interpublic will be an advantage, but Burger King dismisses that notion, saying that test results, quality of team and their capabilities will drive the decision. "The only place in the review that agency [holding company] was relevant was when we chose original agency lists," said Mr. Bomhard.

Grey Global Group has a division dedicated to youth marketing: G-WHiZ! Entertainment. It was created in 2000 by the merger of G-WhiZ Youth Marketing and Grey Entertainment.

Grey's clients in this division include, Aeropostale, and Additionally, other kid-oriented clients on Grey Worldwide's roster include M&M /Mars and Warner Bros.' Harry Potter products. Grey also has ties to Burger King parent Diageo through its Seagram business.

Contributing: Laura Q. Hughes.

Copyright January 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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