The Honeymoon Is Over for BK, Y&R

After just four months, the honeymoon between Young & Rubicam and Burger King is long over.

As the WPP Group shop and Miami-based client look for solid footing with each other, they have clashed over creative direction, sources said.

Y&R’s worldwide cd and New York CEO Michael Patti, a former senior ecd at BBDO who is known for blockbuster, celebrity-laden spots for the likes of Pepsi, is said to be particularly frustrated that some of his ideas have been rejected as BK insists on more food-focused fare.

Russ Klein, a former 7-Eleven chief marketing officer who joined BK in May as its CMO, last week acknowledged that there has been “fierce debate” over the work but said that “it’s always civilized.” As for Y&R, he said: “We’re in it for the long haul with these guys,” adding, “We’re learning together as we move through our challenges.”

To be sure, fast food accounts are prone to such pushes and pulls, and BK, which is under intense pressure to drive sales, is no exception. And Y&R, having previously worked for KFC, knew what to expect when it became lead national agency on BK’s $350 million account in April.

Since then, however, WPP has replaced Y&R worldwide CEO Mike Dolan—a key figure in the BK win—with Ann Fudge, and BK has installed Klein. What’s more, Patti is still adjusting to a shop that has historically been driven by account executives, sources said.

Patti, through a Y&R rep, declined comment, referring calls to BK.

Future spots may have a different look and feel, but the tagline introduced by Y&R in June—”The fire is burning”—is not slated to change, sources said. Y&R’s initial ads linked flame broiling with Americana and featured men and women in the heartland, standing by their grills.