Those changes could either mean scrapping or scaling back the use of BK's prime burger pitchman Dan Cortese, of MTV fame, in the current campaign or developing a new one.
Despite critical acclaim and strong advertising effectiveness numbers for its seven-month-old BK Tee Vee effort, sources said that lagging customer traffic and a growing rift with its franchisees over the advertising and planned summer promotions may combine to force Burger King to reevaluate its ad approach.
Recently, the agency returned to its original concept of using multiple celebrities under the BK TeeVee umbrella in an effort to target different demographic groups.
"Nobody has ever said its a Cortese campaign; it's a BK TeeVee campaign," said one source. Burger King is currently looking for new mini-stars who are on the cusp of celebrity but who don't carry heavy contract costs.
Yet, growing dissatisfaction among some Burger King franchisees with the current work leads some to speculate that the client might resort to amputation, not surgery, by the fall.
"Just changing from Cortese doesn't help," one source said. "Awareness is up but sales are down and that has to be improved."
Executives at DMB&B/N.Y. declined to comment. A spokesperson for Burger King said the the company has "no plans" to kill the current campaign, dump Cortese or make any agency changes, but added that it is normal for the work to evolve. "In terms of recall and awareness, this campaign has produced some of the best numbers in the last 20 years. It's working for us," the spokesperson said.
While recall may be up, Jerry Ruenheck, president of BK's national franchisee board and a former BK president, said that customer counts at Burger King outlets are "going south" this year. "It's not just the advertising; the campaign is only one of several reasons . . . ," he said. "But the most important measure of a campaign is whether it moves customer counts. If it doesn't, it's a failure."
Ron Paul, president of the the Chicago-based Technomic Inc. consulting firm, estimates that BK posted the weakest sales results in 1992 out of the four major burger chains which control roughly 78% of the $33-billion fast-food hamburger industry, though the BK TeeVee effort was only on air for the the last quarter of 1992.
During 1992, Technomic estimates that BK's share of the U.S. market dropped to 16% from 16.6% in 1991, with sales rising only 2.7% systemwide to $5.3 billion. The overall market grew at a 7% clip.
With consumer reaction still mixed to BK's new dinner menu and table service program, many of the 2,000-plus franchisees are now on the warpath over proposed discount price promotions this spring and summer.
While sources said roughly 55% of BK franchisses voted for the program, BK management abandoned its normal procedure of seeking 75% approval from its franchisees for marketing moves and went ahead with the program. The move has sparked open revolt by some franchisees and the threat of possible lawsuits.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)