McDonald's hands £6m children's task to Partners BDDH

LONDON - McDonald's has awarded its estimated £6m children's advertising business to Partners BDDH. The appointment is a shot across the bows of incumbent Leo Burnett's hold on the £42m UK account.

As well as handling ads for McDonald's Happy Meals, which accounts for about 30% of McDonald's business in the UK, Partners BDDH will be responsible for all advertising aimed at children. This includes brand and promotional work based around Ronald McDonald.

It will be a particularly critical and sensitive brief at a time when fast-food giants are under fire for marketing to children. In July last year, McDonald's scooped the Pester Power award at the Children's Food Awards for the way it markets Happy Meals to children.

Partners BDDH won the business after pitching against Soul, BMP DDB and HHCL Red Cell. Leo Burnett did not pitch. The review was handled by Agency Assessments.

It is an unusual move for McDonald's to select an agency from outside its main roster. DDB works on creative in most markets outside the UK, while TBWA's French subsidiary handles the business in France.

Leo Burnett has handled McDonald's UK business for 20 years, but lost the US account to DDB Needham in 1997. McDonald's would not comment on reports that the children's ad project might be a 'test-bed' for a full ad review.

Earlier this month, McDonald's held a global conference in Chicago, where it unveiled a new brand direction under the strapline "I'm lovin' it". The theme was developed by Heye & Partner in Munich, part of the DDB network.

The company said the new direction would be the "glue" for its forthcoming worldwide marketing and ad campaigns, and would be implemented and adapted across the globe by local agencies. The ramifications of this approach for McDonald's agency roster are not yet known.

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