Burger King’s Cannes marketing gong shows changing nature of advertising landscape

Burger king has been chosen as the Cannes International Festival of Creativity as its Creative Marketer of the Year ( lots of “creative” here, if you haven’t got the message). No surprise there in the sense that there’s an element of Buggins’ Turn about these choices but Burger King is interesting all the same.

One reason is that it tends to use a roster of smaller, creative (yes, yes) agencies such as Ogilvy offshoot David in the US and Buzzman in Europe (which has just landed the business in Belgium). Y&R New Zealand probably played the main part in this award though with its World Peace Day ‘McWhopper’ open letter to McDonald’s (below) – which McD spurned in a PR howler)

Two, because it’s supposed to be one of those horrid new-style companies obsessed with cost cutting and the dreaded “zero base” budgeting, in which all budgets start from scratch every year.

Like Kraft Heinz, Burger King is owned by a combo of Brazil’s merciless 3G Capital (which expedited the massive AB InBev/SAB Miller brewing merger) and Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway. These two were behind the abortive Kraft Heinz bid for Unilever although they may still finish with Unilever’s spread brands like Flora which are, apparently, now up for sale.

So Burger King may be sticky about budgeting but it seems to understand the role striking advertising can play in building big consumer businesses (we won’t say brands because, one suspects, any BK advertising that didn’t sell more burgers would be dumped double quick).

So it’s a choice for the modern era and, maybe, a message to traditional agencies that they need to adjust their outlook for a new kind of client – far removed from the Unilevers (now part of the zero base gang) and Procter & Gambles which, until recently anyway, had massive marketing expenditure built into their DNA.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.