McDonald's calls Happy Meal pitch

LONDON - McDonald's has called a pan-European pitch for its Happy Meals product as it kicks off a new strategy that favours pan-European advertising campaigns.

The fast-food chain is seeing pitches from Leo Burnett, DDB and TBWA with a view to appointing one network to develop creative for Happy Meals, its core children's products.

Crucially, agency sources do not yet know whether

McDonald's will hand the

appointed network both the strategy and implementation or simply a strategic brief that required local advertising agencies to create work for

local markets.

The three agencies involved all have places on the McDonald's international roster. Leo Burnett was appointed by McDonald's 20 years ago, DDB handles creative in the majority of markets outside the UK and TBWA's French agency, TBWA@BDDP, handles the Happy Meal business in France.

McDonald's has appointed John Hawkes, previously its chief marketing officer in the UK, to the role of European group marketing officer as it increases its pan-European marketing activity. Until now it has tended to create campaigns for each market individually. Local agencies will remain in place, but Hawkes will build closer working relationships between them.

The Happy Meal is vital to McDonald's fortunes in maintaining high levels of consumption and awareness among children. Previous

McDonald's ads for Happy Meals focused on big tie-ins such as a link with BBC Worldwide in the UK that led to the launch of Tweenies Happy Meals. Bigger global deals struck with companies including Mattel would lend themselves to pan-European creative work.

McDonald's usually runs a large Happy Meals promotion backed by advertising each summer with other activity throughout the year. Last year in the UK its promotion was "TV favourites" and included models of characters.

The review will not directly affect Leo Burnett's hold on the £37 million UK McDonald's creative account. The network lost the US account to DDB Needham in 1997. However, Burnett still handles advertising to children and teenagers in the US.

Despite losing the US account, Burnett's relationship with McDonald's in the UK has led to award-winning campaigns, most recently for its "Alan Hansen" and

"estate agent" spots.

In the past year McDonald's has focused its spend on

specific promotions but its Christmas corporate advertising signals a move back toward brand-building activity.

A McDonald's spokeswoman said: "The process is still ongoing and has yet to be decided."

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