BK Chief Marketer Russ Klein Departs

Burger King said Russ Klein, president of global marketing strategy and innovation, would leave the company effective Dec. 15. BK said “personal reasons” precipitated his impending departure.

Peter Robinson, BK’s former president for operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, will guide global marketing on an interim basis while the company seeks a permanent replacement for Klein (shown).

BK spends about $275 million annually in major measured media, per Nielsen. Through August 2009, the company has spent $175 million on ads.

MDC-owned Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Miami is BK’s lead agency, with a track record for creating attention-grabbing, award-winning and sometimes controversial advertising on Klein’s watch. Such pushes have included the “Whopper Freakout” (winner of the Grand Effie for ad effectiveness) and “Whopper Sacrifice” (which copped a Grand CLIO).

Speaking at a CLIO Awards session in May, Klein, explaining the brand’s “King” mascot in particular and its advertising philosophy in general, said: “It’s our job as marketers to position and juxtapose our brand with something that is inherent to us. The challenger mentality is perhaps a little stormier brand position — and a more adolescent tonality is a nice contrast.”

Under pressure from the lingering recession like most of its fast-food brethren, BK has of late seen its sales and income decline. Two weeks ago, BK reported that net income for its first fiscal quarter fell to $46.6 million, or 34 cents a share, from $49.8 million, or 36 cents a share, compared to the same period in ’08. Sales dipped 5 percent to $636.9 million.

See also:

“BK, Crispin Dish on ‘The King'”

“Double Whopper — BK Spots Court Controversy”

“BK Puts Celebrity Endorsement to the Test”