Same old same old with new Burger King spots

MB’s new Burger King campaign

This is what worries us. McGarryBowen, with offices in New York and Chicago, in recent months has been pegged a super hot ad agency by marketing media reporters (ourselves included) for its string of big account wins.

Among the big wins that have just landed on MB’s client roster are the troubled retailing behemoth Sears, the troubled burger chain Burger King and United Airlines, now the world’s largest commercial carrier.

Of those, only the Sears account reportedly is based in MB’s Chicago office. But given the way the ad business works nowadays, it’s entirely possible some of the work for United and Burger King also could wind up being handled by Chicago creatives. One just never knows for sure, does one?

For us, though, it’s not so much about the wins themselves, it’s about what the ad agency ultimately does with the creative opportunities it has been handed.

And for us, an ad agency truly becomes super hot ONLY after it has proven it can produce creative for new accounts that is consistently superior. We can’t emphasize enough the importance of consistency.

Which brings us back to what worries us about McGarryBowen’s first Burger King TV commercials that just broke. We have seen two new BK commercials. Both spark big concerns about what McGarryBowen may be able to do, creatively speaking, for a burger chain that needs a lot of marketing help.

The new TV spots — one for the California Whopper and another for the chain’s breakfast Croissan’wich — attempt to whet the consumer’s hunger for these products with a montage of close-up shots of the ingredients that comprise both menu items.

There is certainly nothing radically new or game-changing about  such a creative concept. That said, we wish McGarryBowen and the client at least could have found a way to do something very familiar in a breathtakingly new fashion.

But this isn’t the case with the shockingly ordinary work on display here — be it the cutting and dicing of an avocado or the slicing of a tomato.  Backlighting is used to make otherwise unprepossessing ingredients look like something more, uh, glamorous and mouthwatering, but, again, it’s stuff we’ve already seen way too many times.

The Croissan-wich spot is much the worst of the two new commercials. The first couple of times we watched it — around the point in the spot where we believe an egg is being cooked in a super-close up — we mistakenly thought the cameraman maybe got sick and forgot to wipe off the camera lens afterward.

That egg bit is some of the least-appetizing food footage we’ve seen in quite a while.

Is there better stuff ahead? We’ll find out soon enough. But McGarryBowen — which has been knocked hard for being an horrendously mediocre creative shop by many anonymous, snarky comment posters in the advertising blogosphere  — needs to do much better than it has in this debut  Burger King work if the agency wants to quell its nastiest (and perhaps envious?) critics.

MB’s big test coming with new United Airlines campaign

We know McGarryBowen’s Chicago shop is certainly capable of better.  We’ve seen them break the mold more than a little with some high-powered work for Miracle Whip, long one of the most tired brands on the planet. Not anymore.

But whatever happens with MB’s Burger King creative, we really, really worry about what is to come with McGarryBowen’s first full-blown campaign for United Airlines, which a United spokesman said may not break until early next year.

McGarryBowen absolutely cannot afford to fail with United — given the exquisite, beyond-reproach illustrated campaigns that are the legacy of United’s former ad agency, Barrie D’Rozario Murphy.

History — and we as well — will not look kindly on McGarryBowen if it doesn’t show us — in definitive fashion — that it can create a United campaign that  soars above all other advertising in the marketplace.


Meanwhile, the days leading up to the long Labor Day weekend, did not bring good news to Element 79/Chicago.   BMO Harris Bank, as it is rather unfortunately now named, has put its account into review. Element 79 has had the account for around six years.

Harris, Chicago’s third largest banking institution after Chase and Bank of America, is a unit of Canada’s Bank of Montreal, which looks to be flexing its muscle more than a little by adding “BMO” to the Harris Bank name.

The Harris business is probably one of the biggest  — and most high profile — accounts on Element 79’s slimmed-down client roster, though sources tell us new account wins may come soon. Element 79 will defend BMO Harris, but as DraftFCB found out recently with its long-standing S.C. Johnson business, it is never good news when a client wants to review things.

Sources familiar with developments say the review was prompted not by locally-based Harris marketing executives, but by newly-installed marketing honchos at parent Bank of Montreal. As is so often the case now, new marketing officers almost always feel compelled to put their stamp on things.

Element 79’s most recent work for Harris has focused on the bank’s commercial banking services.

Contact Lewis Lazare at