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Burger King Splits with Ad Agency CP+B

Filed under Advertising, Management, Marketing

That was the sound of the other shoe dropping. When Burger King installed new management last October following the chain’s acquisition by 3G Capital, the question asked here was, “Will Crispin Porter + Bogusky hang on to Burger King’s $300 million-plus ad account?” It did for awhile, but when UK Marketing Director Sarah Power exited in December and EVP-Global Chief Marketing Officer Natalia Franco left abruptly earlier this month, the writing was on the wall for the Miami-based agency’s tenure as lead global creative agency. 

how that writing on the wall read in a joint statement today from client and agency: “Burger King Corp. and Crispin Porter + Bogusky have enjoyed a tremendously successful relationship over the past seven and a half years. During that time, our creative partnership resulted in countless innovative and engaging campaigns for the BK brand. We are incredibly proud of all that we have accomplished together, but have mutually decided that now is the right time to part ways. We are fans of each other’s work and wish each other much success in the future.” 

In the end, CP+B’s fate came down to Charlie Sheen’s infamous mantra, “Winning!” And Burger King isn’t. CP+B certainly can’t bear all the fault for BK’s inability to grow, but management clearly decided that the agency has had its shot. And has missed. The chain reported a 2.3% decline in worldwide same-store sales for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2010. The brand advanced some in Europe, but in the U.S. and Canada sales decline 3.9% for the year. Wendy’s is building; McDonald’s is cruising. BK has been falling behind.

CP+B created both great buzz and huge headaches in its seven years on the account. The “Whopper Sacrifice” promotion in 2009 that promised a free Whopper to those who “unfriended” 10 Facebook pals was an early indicator of the power of social media.  Facebook shut down the promotion early, and a lot of BK marketing went wrong or sour while bringing plenty of attention. The SpongeBob Squarepants TV commercial that many adults considered tasteless, for example. Advertising in Europe that offended Mexicans or Hindus while the chain used the tagline “Taste is king.” And then there is the plastic-smile King character.

Who will take over on Burger King? Will 3G Capital split up global responsibilities regionally? If so, that will allow smaller agencies to compete for the $300 million U.S. account. There has been a trend toward smaller shops in recent restaurant account switches (Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s to David & Goliath, IHOP to Gotham). Or will BK continue with one lead creative shop globally, as CP+B has been. If so, which agencies are large enough to handle such an assignment but who don’t have a conflicting account? JWT, which created the legendary “Where’s Herb?” campaign as BK agency in the mid-1980s, is conflict-free if second chances are allowed.

Finalists for Arby’s account were Butler, Shine, Stern + Partners; Euro RSCG; and Young & Rubicam. Unsuccesful finalists in the Carl’s Jr/Hardee’s review included 72andSunny; Carmichael Lynch; and GSD&M Idea City. Deutsch reportedly was invited to pitch but declined. Publicis and Cramer-Krasselt were finalists for the Sonic business.