It’s Groundhog Day once again at Burger King.
In the 1993 movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray portrays a TV weatherman who suffers the existential crisis of reliving (literally) the same day over and over and over again. There was nothing he could do to break the cycle, until he learned to relax, live in the moment, and be totally present to the moment in which he found himself.
Today, fast feeder Burger King seems to be going through it’s own version of Groundhog Day. Except for BK, here’s what their “day” looks like: franchises lose ground to industry leader McDonald’s; antsy franchisees march on corporate with pitchforks and torches, demanding a fresh direction; client blames ad agency for loss of market share and fires it; client then hires a new agency; proclaiming said agency exhibited “unique insights” into the business; after honeymoon period (that includes development of some head-turning work), once again sales begin to slide; antsy franchisees march on corporate with pitchforks and torches, etc., etc.
Rinse and repeat.
Burger King must have lived this “day” something like ten times over the past 20 years. And at the end of it all, it finds itself stuck in the same position, awaking to the proverbial clock radio blasting “I Got You Babe.”
This go round, the sacrificial agency was Crispin Porter & Bogusky, who in the half dozen years they had the account managed to do some fairly edgy stuff, including the Whopper Sacrifice, the Subservient Chicken and the memorable-though-somewhat-creepy bobble headed King. And now that Burger King has jettisoned CP&B in favor of McGarryBowen, we can expect Burger King’s fortunes to reverse themselves, right?
I can answer that in two words. Titanic. Deckchairs.
It’s a lot easier to blame an ad agency for your woes and send them packing than it is to look at your organization in a holistic way to determine the true issues. It’s a way to be seen as “doing something” that in the scheme of things may mean little more than put a band-aid on a tumor.
In a well-written article in FastCompany, Cliff Kuang points out what the real issues that have traditionally dogged Burger King are: the fact that, unlike McDonald’s, Burger King does not own the land its franchisees use, so it has little control over the stores, plus the fact that BK franchisees have historically been reluctant to embrace and promote a “value menu,” instead opting to push more expensive items during a time of economic downturn (remember “Meatnormous”?). As Kuang summed it up, “Advertising is a weak lever to effect change in a sprawling, franchised operation like Burger King.”
Yeah, but it’s awfully easy to fire your ad agency.
Whether McGarryBowen has the huevos to stand up and point out the 800 lbs. gorilla in the room is yet to be seen. History shows us that many times, as soon as an agency gets the scent of millions of media dollars wafting up its nostrils, it ceases to become the “truth teller” its client so badly needs and instead starts running out the clock.
If that’s the case, be warned, McGarryBowen: Sonny & Cher are waiting right around the corner.
Posted by Mickey
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