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Archrivals McDonald's Corp. and Burger King Corp. are ringing in the new year with competitive ads and products aimed at each other's strongest properties.

McDonald's is spotlighting a new burger in test markets, the McDonald's Big Xtra-or MBX-via a new TV spot from DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago, that takes a direct shot at BK's Whopper (AA, Nov. 17).

It comes as Burger King has launched a $70 million national push for its new french fries, with a heavy barrage of TV spots from Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York, that claim consumers chose them over McDonald's fries in an independent national taste test.

McDonald's claims its new burger-launched Dec. 26 in upstate New York; areas of Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania; Des Moines; and Tucson, Ariz.-has 20% more beef than a Whopper, and that its $2.99 value meal has 25% more fries than a comparable value meal from Burger King.

The :30 MBX spot centers on a pawn shop where a male customer tries to pawn his Whopper for a bigger McDonald's burger, said Steve Reiff, Northeast division marketing director for McDonald's.


"Imitation is the greatest form of flattery and they're trying to play catch-up, quite frankly," said a Burger King spokeswoman.

Last fall, BK grabbed headlines by launching the Big King, a direct competitor to McDonald's own core burger, the Big Mac.

The local introduction of the Big Xtra comes as McDonald's is shifting to a more regional focus in ads.

This month, the chain will focus on local promotions, spotlighting various products and price offers. The Big Mac will likely be back on national TV in February, tied to the Winter Olympics, said two executives familiar with McDonald's ad plans.

The Big Xtra is made with a 4.5-ounce beef patty served on a sesame seed bun with lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, and a blend of mayonnaise and ketchup. It is a different sandwich than the Big 'N Tasty burger, another product with a mayonnaise sauce that McDonald's last year put into West Coast markets, Mr. Reiff said.


The chain is featuring a new twist on the Big 'N Tasty burger this month in Los Angeles: the Big 'N Spicy chicken sandwich, which some observers report is a direct hit against the Spicy Chicken sandwich from Wendy's International, the third-largest fast-food chain.

The McDonald's product is a limited time offer being supported by a :30 from DavisElen Advertising, Los Angeles.

To support its new fries, Burger King on Jan. 2 did a major promotional blitz by giving away a free order of small fries to all customers for "Free Fryday."

McDonald's responded with ads offering free fries-a large order-for the entire month of January.

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