Fast Food Frenzy

CHICAGO — Bates’ decision to unbundle its media provided a convenient excuse for Wendy’s to fire the agency, with the chain’s top marketing executive saying it’s “just not in our DNA” to work with an outside media shop.

Sources said the chain needed a clear-cut reason for moving the $240 million business to Interpublic Group’s McCann- Erickson from Bates, in part to satisfy franchisees who have enjoyed great success under the incumbent’s advertising. Same store sales were up more than 6 percent through June 2002, outpacing McDonald’s and Burger King.

An underlying motivation behind Wendy’s move, which had been expected [Adweek, July 22], may be the agency’s shaky situation. Bates has lost more than $400 million in billings in recent months, led by the exit of Hyundai’s $330 million business. The shift also raised questions for IPG’s relationship with Burger King, which works with the holding company’s Deutsch, Campbell-Mithun and DraftWorldwide.

Sources said client officials weren’t notified that McCann was set to take on Wendy’s until the day before. A BK representative, however, said on Friday that the chain’s executives are comfortable with McCann’s new client and that they’re convinced their IPG agencies are sufficiently separate. BK fired McCann as its lead agency last September.

Wendy’s evp, marketing Don Calhoon offered no specifics of why Wendy’s couldn’t work with Optimedia. “It’s just contrary to the way we’ve conducted our business,” he said.

Once Bates moved its buying to Optimedia last month, Wendy’s wasted little time in making its move. “We worked for Wendy’s for about a second and a half,” said Optimedia CEO Mike Drexler.

McCann CEO Jim Heekin said staffing would be worked out during the 90-day transition period, and declined to say whether Gary Steele, who led the account at Bates, will be joining the shop. Steele’s moving with the business has been widely anticipated after the client said publicly that its relationship with the “account team is solid.” Also to be decided is the fate of the more than 50 Bates staffers who worked on Wendy’s.