In-N-Out Burger Taps Finalists

West Coast fast-food chain In-N-Out Burger has trimmed the list of agencies hunting its ad business and could choose one in the next few weeks, sources close to the review said.

The 53-year-old, 148-store chain has been quietly looking for a new agency to handle creative and media duties after its former agency, McCann-Erickson, Los Angeles, took up with Burger King this year. Sources said the chain contacted at least a dozen agencies last month and has narrowed the list to finalists.

Still on that list are Ground Zero, Marina del Rey, Calif., J. Walter Thompson, Los Angeles, and The Miller Group and Rubin Postaer and Associates, both in Santa Monica, Calif. Others may also be involved.

The company, which pioneered the concept of drive-through service and is still operated by the family that opened the first unit in 1948, spend about $1 million on advertising last year, per Competitive Media Reporting. Still, many involved in the review said the commitment to marketing is expected to balloon to at least $6 million this year due to expansion plans.

In-N-Out’s director of marketing, Michelle Guzman confirmed the company is looking, but declined to elaborate. “We are an incredibly private organization, and we don’t care to discuss it,” she said.

Top executives at the four aforementioned shops confirmed they are in the running, but were reluctant to divulge details. They did say it is a plum assignment given In-N-Out’s heritage. One source called In-N-Out “the Cadillac of junk food.”

“As soon as we heard McCann got Burger King, we approached them,” said Hunter Phillips, svp at Rubin Postaer. “We think it would be a great [to get the account].”

Likewise, Peter Stranger, president of JWT West, said he saw a ripe opportunity. “When we read about McCann and Burger King, we starting flirting with them,” he said.

“We had a meeting with them,” said Jim Smith, president of Ground Zero. “I would be delighted to get this,” Smith said.