Burger King puts creative, media accounts into review as RBI reshape continues

Linda J. Dodson

Dive Brief:

  • Burger King U.S. has put its creative and media accounts up for review, according to details emailed to Marketing Dive. Respective incumbents David and Horizon have been invited to join the RFP.
  • In addition, Restaurant Brands International (RBI) sister brands Popeyes U.S. and Tim Hortons U.S., which also worked with Horizon, will look for a new media agency of record.
  • Burger King could look to move on from David, an agency that has produced countless memorable and award-winning campaigns that have not always translated to better business outcomes. The reviews come as RBI has seen a raft of marketing executive departures across its portfolio.

Dive Insight:

Burger King putting its creative and media accounts up for review is the latest shakeup for a marketer that has not always been able to turn creative campaigns into sales. Since tapping David as lead global agency in 2014, Burger King has been known for buzzy, often-controversial campaigns that generate headlines with an approach it called “hackvertising.” But while the brand and the creative agency won awards — including ones for seven campaigns at last year’s Cannes Lions and both advertiser and agency of the year at last year’s Clio Awards — Burger King (and its sister brands) has struggled to grow same-store sales and overcome the pandemic-spurred challenges.

The agency review of Burger King’s creative, as well as the U.S. media accounts for Burger King, Popeyes and Tim Hortons, continues an advertising industry-wide trend that has seen major account reviews over the last two years as brands respond to changing consumer priorities. Coca-Cola and Unilever were among the major marketers that finished reviews in 2021, with marketers including AB InBev looking to wrap up reviews this year.

For Burger King, the agency reviews follow almost a year of marketing executive shakeups. Fernando Machado, the longtime Burger King executive, left RBI in April 2021 after more than a year as the company’s global CMO. The chain’s North American CMO Ellie Doty left the company in November 2021 after joining in June 2020, while sister brand Popeyes saw CMO Bruno Cardinali resign last month. The executive and agency shakeup resembled the one at Popeyes competitor KFC, which parted ways with Wieden+Kennedy this year — despite years of newsworthy creative — after hiring a new CMO.

In Q3 2021, Burger King saw system-wide comparable sales of 7.9%, weighed down by a 1.6% dip in U.S. comparable sales. Meanwhile, comparable sales at rival McDonald’s were up 12.7% globally, with a 9.6% lift in the U.S. RBI will report full year and Q4 2021 results on Feb. 15.

“As BK continues to evolve its efforts to achieve world-class relevance with today’s guests, a thorough review of key aspects of the business will take place,” a Burger King spokesperson said in emailed comments.

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