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Burger King Gets the Urge, Again

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Four days before Burger King acknowledged it was reviewing the creative portion of its $400 million account, top executives at Lowe Lintas & Partners pre-sented three new creative concepts to client officials at their Miami headquarters.

One concept, which was well received, revolved around burgers, the fast-food chain's core equity, sources said. At the time, executives at the meeting, including Frank Lowe, Jerry Judge and Lee Garfinkel, thought they had a winner.

But based on past experience with BK, which typically buys two campaigns at a time, some wondered if something was amiss. The following Tuesday, Mikel Durham, the new North American president of Burger King, put the account in review.

New York-based Lowe Lintas plans to defend. The No. 2 fast-food-restaurant chain in the U.S. initially plans to contact up to 10 agencies. A select number of finalists will then pitch creative ideas, which will be tested as a key criterion in selecting the winner, said Stefan Bomhard, svp of marketing at the client.

Agencies said to be pursuing the account include McCann-Erickson, J. Walter Thompson, Saatchi & Saatchi and Wieden & Kennedy.

"The guiding principal is we want some fresh creative thinking," Bom-hard said. BK has been in contact with search consultants, but it was unclear at press time which—if any—would be involved in the search, which is expected to take about three to four months.

Bomhard, formerly vp of U.S. brand marketing at BK and ex-marketing manager at Procter & Gamble in Moscow, as-sumed his current role in April. Dur-ham, most recently global strategy director at Guinness, joined in August.

Changes in client management is one reason for the review, sources said. Another is flagging sales. At the end of June, same-store sales were down compared with the year before, BK reported. Finally, the "Got the urge?" campaign that launched in April has failed to "break through the clutter," Bomhard said.

Meanwhile, there have been changes on Lowe Lintas' side, with Matt Heller taking the account-management reins from Nancy McNally in March and then being replaced by Bruce Kelley [Adweek, Aug. 21]. Some said Bomhard requested the most recent switch, but Bomhard said, "That's not true."

The review comes a year after Lowe & Partners merged with Ammirati Puris Lintas and as another Lowe Lintas client, Sun Microsystems, has embarked on an agency search (see related story). It also comes after Garfinkel and other shop executives have made a concerted effort to "save" the business.

As the incumbent, Lowe Lintas faces tough odds in a review. But Garfinkel believes it is worth a shot. "Based on my conversations with Burger King executives, we will definitely participate," said Garfinkel. "And I wouldn't waste the agency's time if I didn't think we had a real chance of succeeding."