Mcgarrybowen Has ‘It’ Agency Moment

Nabs Sears and Burger King accounts in eight days. Is United next?

Mcgarrybowen is on a tear. Winning Sears and last week Burger King in the span of eight days is a major coup for the agency, which still prides itself on being a giant killer despite it now being bigger than many of its rivals.

And the agency isn’t resting. Final pitches in United’s creative and media review are next month, and mcgarrybowen is in the hunt there as well. United’s business represents about $7 million in revenue, so should mcgarrybowen win, it will have gained about $40 million from three brands in less than two months. Not bad for a shop that just eclipsed the $100 million mark last year.

The agency’s appeal is rooted in account service—as personified by John McGarry, a former top gun at Young & Rubicam—and penchant for going the extra mile.

When asked to create a strategic positioning for a new Android phone that Verizon Wireless was about to offer in late 2009, the shop suggested changing the phone name from “Dynamite” to “Droid,” even securing rights to the word from Star Wars creator George Lucas.

Creatively, mcgarrybowen is seen as middle-of-the-road—or “populist,” as chief creative officer Gordon Bowen puts it—with a fondness for glossy production values, jingles, and smiling faces. This is the antithesis of BK’s previous lead creative agency, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, whose quirky ads for the chain catered to young males with humor and occasional creepiness.

In the past two years, however, BK’s sales shrunk in a category that grew as families sought cheaper options. Also, new BK owner 3G Capital wants to broaden the brand’s appeal to moms and kids. In short, sales growth is the top priority, and 3G executives are fixated on ROI. They’re not particularly concerned with winning creative awards. Good thing, because neither is mcgarrybowen.

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