When DDB won the McDonald’s french fry shootout more than two years ago, Publicis Groupe took a huge hit as the chain ended its 35-year relationship with Leo Burnett despite the latter agency’s focus on all-day breakfast as a revenue booster.
That was only the beginning: Omnicom proceeded to open a new agency in Chicago called We Are Unlimited that combined talent from not only DDB but other holding company properties like Annalect, sparks & honey and Critical Mass as well as outside partners including Facebook, Google, and The New York Times’ T Brand Studio, among others.
WAU’s debut campaign “There’s a Big Mac For That” aired in January 2017, and the shop grew to employ a few hundred people as it continued to pump out work like the copy-free “Speechless Thoughts” and some sweet, spicy grandmas.
The headlining arrangement between agency and client has shifted, however. We recently acquired a semi-confidential quarterly summary that DDB sends to assorted parties within the industry that included this interesting nugget:
So at an unspecified point this year, We Are Unlimited “will be able to pursue new business opportunities,” meaning work that falls outside the scope of the McDonald’s brand.
In other words, WAU can pitch for new business unrelated to its founding client. It will then no longer be a “dedicated” agency.
A McDonald’s spokesperson said “there is no change to McDonald’s and WAU’s relationship,” which she described as “strong.” We Are Unlimited declined to comment, and representatives for DDB and Omnicom did not respond to related emails.
A party with direct knowledge of the matter, however, said the scope of work is smaller now than in 2018 and indicated that the exclusive nature of the contract between the two parties may have expired after two years.
This would be in keeping with McDonald’s decision, last fall, to assign lead creative duties on its McCafe relaunch to TBWA\Chiat\Day L.A. after a “jump ball” pitch that reportedly involved WAU. At the time, a client rep said, “Our model and agreement provides the flexibility to tap additional resources when needed,” with a key qualifier being that all the work stays within the Omnicom family.
The source also said that Omnicom has begun moving talent around in Chicago to service other key accounts, primarily U.S. Army, which went to Windy City-led Team DDB in November.