Wednesday, January 26, 2005

VML's latest project for its client Burger King, a tie-in with last week's premiere of the latest season of the “The Apprentice” TV show, was a hush-hush affair.
So much so that in an agency of more than 200 staffers, including more than 50 who work on the Burger King business, only a handful were aware of the project, which entailed building a new part of the Burger King Web site that went live during the broadcast Thursday.
VML spokeswoman Kirsten McGannon said Friday that Burger King has long been pitching a tie-in with “The Apprentice” and finally secured a deal last summer.
Burger King and Mark Burnett, producer of “The Apprentice,” had the two teams, Street Smarts and Book Smarts, square off against each other in their initial competition to build and launch a new Burger King sandwich.
Each team worked with the fast-food chain's executive chef, Calvin Harris, to create a new sandwich. The teams then had one day to prepare for the launch, including coming up with a marketing plan.
The next day, the two teams took over their respective Burger King locations in Manhattan, and the game was on.
VML built a Web site that was launched during the show, allowing visitors to replicate the contestants' experience.
The agency's top-secret team started working on the project in October. All members of the team had to sign nondisclosure agreements.
Upon visiting the Burger King Web site at, visitors can experience “building” their own sandwich, having it critiqued, coming up with a marketing angle and getting “feedback” from Burger King's chief marketing officer.
“Our goal was to provide the consumer experience for the people who watch ‘The Apprentice,' ” said Pamela Sandler, Burger King account director at VML. “The game and the people who watch it are very competitive. We wanted to give them a chance to see how they might fare were they playing the game themselves.”
Viewers learned of the site during a Burger King spot that aired during the show promoting the winning burger, the Western Angus steak burger. The burger competition will remain the centerpiece of the Burger King site through early February.
From Jan. 20 through Jan. 23 the site had 270,450 visits and 180,450 unique visitors. The average time each visitor spent on the site was just under 10 minutes.
By the way, the Street Smarts team won and Todd, the project leader for Book Smarts, was booted from the boardroom.


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