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North america's "eat-and-run" approach to fast food is catching on in Latin America-but not always with stateside results.

Though marketers who oversee Latin American efforts admit agility and market understanding are keys to success, sometimes local market forces overpower corporate strategy.

In Venezuela, Burger King Corp.'s campaign for its Whopper, focusing on price and quality, has fallen flat: Franchisee Grupo Cisneros's market share has plummeted to 18% from 33% in three years, said Tony Menendez, Grupo Cisneros VP.

Price is a driving strategy in Latin America, and aggressive hamburger wars are breaking out across the region. McDonald's has helped create a fast-food culture, noted one Venezuelan executive, boosting the market size and turning the battle to the middle-class and lower markets.

"Customers are becoming very price-driven," said Andres Eloy Garcia, CEO of Grupo Tropi, whose Tropiburger chain has 20% of Venezuela's market.

Multinational strategies reflect local flavor. McDonald's' decentralized marketing allows local autonomy, said Ann Connolly, international communications man-ager. "Each country is responsible for marketing."

In Argentina, Wendy's International will try to capitalize on local market knowledge with a campaign this month by Verdino/Bates, Buenos Aires, said Jose Ribas, marketing manager-Latin America.

The company, working with Bates Worldwide, Miami, operates in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, and will move into Chile and Colombia in 1996.

Like its U.S. marketing efforts, Wendy's Latin America avoids price promotion, couponing and discounting, Mr. Ribas said.

PepsiCo Restaurants International oversees KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, expanding in Latin America and the Caribbean, said Charles Herington, regional VP-Caribbean, Central America and South America. Regional and market-specific ads come from PepsiCo in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Most of the countries have a relationship with the corporate or regional advertising agencies to unify product branding and message implementation.

Contributing to this story:

Michael J. Galetto, Buenos Aires; Jeffery D. Zbar, Hollywood, Fla.

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