Burger King use of star in good taste

Burger King Canada has grown significantly in Quebec in terms of awareness and market share since its switch three years ago to made-in-Quebec advertising, its director of marketing says.Original materialDrew Sansom says after nearly 10 years of adapting English creative for...

Burger King Canada has grown significantly in Quebec in terms of awareness and market share since its switch three years ago to made-in-Quebec advertising, its director of marketing says.

Original material

Drew Sansom says after nearly 10 years of adapting English creative for the Quebec market, the Toronto-based fast food chain opted for original French-language material and employed a Quebec tv personality to act as spokesman – all to great success.

(Sansom declined to provide awareness and share figures, although he did say the company, which has more than 30 outlets in Quebec and 170 in the rest of Canada, has increased its awareness seven- or eightfold since the switch.)

Sansom says that since Burger King began using a Quebec agency, Marketel in Montreal, a Quebec spokesperson, Marc Andre Coullier, host of children’s tv show Le Club des 100 watts, and developing creative specifically for the Quebec consumer, it has ‘done a better job of communicating the types of things we want to get across.’

He says Quebec consumers, who are loyal to their entertainers and personalities, recognize ‘when a company does make the effort to do things geared towards them.

‘They’re much more appreciative, and certainly give you a lot more credit for it.’

Claude Lavois, vice-president client services at Marketel, says there are practical as well as emotional reasons for using a spokesman in Quebec.

‘Quebec has its own star system,’ Lavois says. ‘We have access, proportionally, to big names that have the power to attract consumers.’

Minimal cost

He says while it would be hard for an advertiser to afford North American stars such as Bill Cosby for English-language commercials, ‘in Quebec, you get an integrated campaign with one look for minimal cost. Something that looks bigger than it really is.’

While Burger King’s broad-based target group is those aged 18-49, with emphasis on medium to heavy fast-food users aged 18-34, Lavois says Coullier transcends all age groups.

‘He appeals to a wider segment because he can be an older brother to the young, a pal to those his own age, and the son they always wanted to the older group,’ he says.

According to Lavois, in Quebec, Burger King advertising pays particular attention to consumers in the 18-25 segment, partly as a reflection of the company’s geography.

Urban locations

Most of its locations are in urban areas and in downtown Montreal, where it draws the University of Montreal crowd.

But Burger King’s major reason for concentrating on those aged 18-25 is because those people can make their own choices.

They are no longer children and not yet parents, so the choice of a restaurant is their decision.

That thinking plays a primary role in the third year of Burger King’s Quebec advertising which began last month with a new theme-line, ‘Je prefer Burger King’ (‘I prefer Burger King.’)

Teen slang

The line used in the previous two years was ‘Mats en que c’est,’ a teenage expression that roughly translates to ‘This is incredibly good.’

Lavois says there are a lot of slogans referring to good taste, but adds the new line goes beyond taste, has more impact, and reinforces the personal choice aspect of the strategy.

Year one of the made-in-Quebec advertising was designed to send a clear signal that something was changing at Burger King.

The message was that Burger King was fresh, dynamic and – by using a Quebec personality in its advertising – was moving closer to the Quebec consumer.


Coullier also appeals to Quebecers’ love of humor.

‘Marc Andre is a funny character,’ Sansom says. ‘As a tv personality with his own show, he is always into fun, upbeat and humorous situations, and we decided to continue to play off that.

‘Obviously, we have serious things we’re communicating in terms of taste, product and price, but we use him in humorous situations to convey that,’ he says.

For example,

‘The first year, one spot played on the pronunciation, or mispronunciation of [the Burger King product, the] Whopper [hamburger,]‘ Sansom says. ‘Quebecers have a hard time pronouncing Whopper – it comes out Whooper, Whoopie, that sort of thing.

Pokes fun

‘It pokes a little fun, but when it’s done by a spokesperson from Quebec, from the average francophone’s perspective, it’s seen as funny, and was very well-accepted,’ he says.

‘If it was done from an English perspective, it might not be as well-received.’

Coullier also makes special appearances at the opening of new Burger King locations and other events in which the company is involved.

‘That’s been very popular, and, quite often, when we open a new store, we fly him in by helicopter, and we get thousands of people waiting to see him,’ Sansom says.

While the advertising strategy differs in Quebec from the rest of the country, the product offerings, including promotional products such as chicken international sandwiches, are largely the same.

‘Usually, we’ll try things everywhere at the same time, and we don’t have different promotional items specifically for the Quebec market,’ Sansom says.


Poutine [a Quebec favorite comprised of french fries, with cheese curds and gravy] was a product that started as strictly a Quebec-based product, he says.

The company now features it across the country, and it has met with wide acceptance.

‘Sometimes, with promotional sandwiches, you will find they sell more of one type in Quebec than elsewhere, but you can get that even in English Canada,’ Sansom says.

According to Sansom, outdoor advertising is not part of the media mix in Quebec.

‘Marc Andre works best in a `live’ situation, radio and television, because he’s a tv personality,’ he says. ‘He doesn’t come off as well in a static medium such as outdoor.’

In contrast to Quebec, Burger King does not do a lot of tv advertising, or use a spokesperson, in English Canada.

The message focusses more on taste and quality, using primarily outdoor, with radio and print for the promotional aspect of the business.

D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles of Toronto is Burger King’s English-language agency.

Sansom says Burger King considers Quebec to be one of its growth markets.

It opened a number of new stores last year and plans to open more in its new fiscal year.

‘There’s lots of potential for us in Quebec, and we certainly haven’t overdeveloped ourselves yet,’ Sansom says.