All Paths Lead to the Grill In Y&R’s First BK Work

Young & Rubicam’s first work for Burger King has something for almost everybody, sources said. The new campaign for the fast-food chain includes serious spots, humorous spots, brand-building spots, price spots, even an animated commercial.

There’s an ode to backyard grilling across the country. There are dinosaurs. One ad even offers a tip on how to count calories. The WPP Group agency’s inaugural work for BK is united by the theme, “The fire’s ready,” sources said.

The New York shop unveiled about 15 TV spots at a meeting of more than 600 BK franchisees last week in Dallas. The first ads will break around the Memorial Day holiday.

“They’re all about the myth and lore of grilling,” said one executive. That continues the marketer’s emphatic drive to return to its historical point of difference: flame-broiling versus frying. (BK recently touted flame-broiling with a campaign tagged, “Cookin’ over an open fire,” from former brand agency Amoeba in Los Angeles.)

In addition, the new executions aim to “humanize people using the grill,” said a source.

One spot, said to be animated, depicts the evolution of grilling, executed as a time line that stretches from dinosaurs to cavemen to the appearance of the modern grill.

Other spots depict a “travelogue” of grilling scenes in American backyards; people hauling a grill up the steps of an urban brownstone; and people washing their cars and grills on Saturdays, sources said.

A pair of commercials targeted at female consumers will tout a new “healthy initiative” chicken sandwich that has four grams of fat. The ads show women offering testimonials about their search for ways to cut calories.

Y&R officials declined comment on the work and referred calls to the client. BK officials did not return calls.

Y&R rushed into production on the campaign after winning the $350 million advertiser’s brand and field marketing business last month. WPP Group sibling MindShare, New York, was awarded media duties on the account.

To finish the work in time for the franchisee meeting, Y&R had producers and directors on standby even before winning the account, sources said. Michael Patti, Y&R’s new worldwide creative director and New York chairman and CEO, led the creative team.

Analysts were generally positive, if a bit muted, about the new advertising direction. “By reinforcing that differentiation, there is an opportunity,” said Mitchell Speiser, senior restaurant analyst at Lehman Brothers in New York. Consumers tend to believe the flame-broiling process results in higher-quality food, he said.

The positioning “is something that separates them from the other chains,” agreed Bob Sandelman of restaurant consultancy Sandelman & Associates in Villa Park, Calif. Sandelman noted, however, that BK’s food still rates below average in customer surveys.

Y&R won the account after a series of strategic and creative meetings with Brad Blum, a former Olive Garden executive who joined the Miami company as CEO in January. The strategic meetings, which took place in March, also included Amoeba, field marketing incumbent Deutsch in Los Angeles, kids marketing agency Campbell Mithun in Minneapolis (which did not present work in Dallas) and nonroster shop Grey Global Group in New York.