Whataburger Goes Back Between the Buns

DALLAS McGarrah/Jessee’s new $10 million image campaign promotes Whataburger as a company of “craftsmen” who serve made-to-order burgers, a message the client said had not been highlighted enough in past promotional spots.

The independent Austin, Texas-based shop’s effort is the first image work for the hamburger chain in three years.

The two 30-second TV spots have a calming tone with copy spoken by a grandfatherly voice. The strategy is a departure from past work from Square One in Dallas that featured a humorous character, “Frank the Fanatic,” who brings new Whataburger products to basketball players, college students and other groups of people.

One spot opens with a shot of colorful stickers that each say options like “no onion” or “bacon” or “jalapeno.” A voiceover says, “36,964. That is the number of ways there are to dress a Whataburger and we serve each one fresh, hot and on a big toasted bun.” As the frame changes to show someone carefully preparing a hamburger, the voiceover continues, “So take heart, mister. Three slices of cheese, no tomatoes, extra bacon and grilled jalapenos. We’ve got you covered.”

Another opens with a man sitting down at a booth with a plastic placard that reads “29.” As shots of him sitting rotate with a burger being made, a voiceover says, “Number 29. That’s not just anybody’s burger. No sir, that’s your burger. A hot, juicy, double meat, 100 percent pure American beef burger with cheese that didn’t exist before you ordered it.” When it arrives, the voiceover says, “Looks like it’s chow time.”

Both spots, which broke in spot markets Wednesday, close with a drawing of a Whataburger and a different narrator stressing the components of the chain’s name, “What-a-burger.” The original voiceover returns to say the longtime tagline, “Just as you like it.”

Agency principal Mark McGarrah, whose shop won creative duties in April following a review, said there was no need to change the tag. “It is right, but it needed to have meaning attached to it,” he said, “The work says Whataburger is absolutely about what the brand stands for and is not fake marketing imagery.”

Client group director of marketing Rod Martin said Square One’s former 2-year-old campaign “got out of focus.” He said, “What started happening was people started thinking more about who Frank was and less about what Whataburger was.” He said with the new work, the company is “trying to get across as much as anything who we are from a values standpoint.”

Square One’s sister company, Southwest Media Group in Dallas, continues to handle media. The new campaign also includes print and radio. Any promotional spots that run this year will be based on the image concept, Martin said.

Whataburger’s sales grew to $693 million last year, a 13 percent jump from 2001, according to Technomic, a Chicago food-service consultancy.

Annual billings are undisclosed. Whataburger spent $10 million on advertising last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.