Internal W+K Email Celebrates McDonald’s Win and Pours Some Salt in DDB’s Wounds

By Doug Zanger 

An internal email circulated by Wieden + Kennedy leadership to staff regarding the agency’s big McDonald’s win could be likened to one of the brand’s dipping sauces: sweet and sour. While striking a celebratory tone, the email also takes some jabs at We Are Unlimited, the agency DDB created as a bespoke shop just to service the chain.

A screenshot of the email’s first few paragraphs was sent to AgencySpy. W+K declined our request to provide the full text of the email.

First, the sweet. Well, yeah, it’s a massive win for the agency, especially the New York office that will be tasked with wrangling in the burger beast’s creative in the U.S. And it will be fun to see what W+K New York (or WKNY, if you prefer that acronym) does with McDonald’s, especially in light of the success of a particular fried chicken brand.


Attributed to Colleen DeCourcy and Tom Blessington, the first part of the email read:

Dear W+K,

Today WKNY won the McDonald’s USA business.

It’s been a nine-month journey that was originally scoped as a brand project but mid-process ballooned into a competitive pitch for the U.S. business. Not only is it a huge coup for N.Y. given the size of the account, but it’s a huge vote for the power of creativity.

So far, so good. But, then, there was this:

Three years ago, McDonald’s awarded its U.S. business to an Omnicom/DDB bespoke agency called “We Are Unlimited (WAU)” one of those “best of breed” solutions that holding companies cobble together to convince clients of its brilliance.

The promise of WAU was that Google and Facebook would be a part of their team and data would be at the core of everything they did. In other words, to paraphrase the old Thomas Dolby song, “They blinded them with science!” But in the end, WAU forgot the power of creativity (or arguably didn’t have much to offer). And three years later, they’ve been relegated to an operational role and WKNY will take the lead. There’s a lesson in that for all of us: it’s never either/or, it’s and/and. Insight, intelligence and great creativity win the day.

Well, WKNY brought all three and impressed the hell out of McDonald’s.

That passage pretty much speaks for itself and unearths several issues at the moment, including the erosion of these new model agencies that grew from a need to super-serve a client. On one hand, an agency like We Are Unlimited makes sense yet, on the other, in-housing and the sea change of the agency world, in general, could signal the end for the DDB experiment, though they will still work on operational matters for McDonald’s.

In fairness, context matters here. While we get the spirit of what was sent to AgencySpy, it is a truncated version of a longer message.

In a statement, Wieden + Kennedy said: “We Are Unlimited is an important partner that brings deep expertise about the brand to the table, and we look forward to working closely with them. McDonalds’ renewed commitment to the power of creativity is a testament to where the brand is headed. Being successful today requires a marriage between the human ways that creativity is able to evoke feelings and bring out the soul of a brand and the insights that lead to the brand’s voice creativity will always be rooted in data and strategy.”

Though W+K New York is taking the lead, there is undoubtedly value in what We Are Unlimited can bring to the party, but it’s clear that the new kids in the drive-thru are primed to do what they do best: use creativity for the power of growth.

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