Burger King Romania’s Cascade of Creative Coincidences

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Publicis CEE’s Jorg Riommi tells Laura Swinton about the extraordinary rollercoaster that saw a whopping relaunch in Romania following the success of the No-Show campaign
Burger King Romania’s Cascade of Creative Coincidences

Jorg Riommi, the exuberant German Italian who is Chief Creative Officer at Publicis Romania and Central & Eastern Europe is buzzing. The week before we talk Publicis Romania has helped relaunch Burger King in the country after an absence of a decade. When the first restaurant opened its doors in Bucharest, the crowds were so vast that the average waiting time for a Whopper was an hour and a half. The hype, indeed, was real – and Jorg has shared the pictures to prove it. 

Jorg and the team celebrate

Ordinarily, that would be a fairly nice, if unremarkable bit of good agency news – but not this launch. It’s the culmination of a two year roller coaster of creativity, tenacity,  belief, opportunism and lots and lots of luck.

It all started at the beginning of 2017, when one of the creative directors at Publicis Romania stumbled upon the fact that the only Burger King restaurant in the country was in Bucharest airport – and, to compound the unfairness, was stuck on the wrong side of airport security.


“So, if you don’t have a ticket to leave the country you can’t eat a whopper in the country! And that’s a stopper! As soon as you her that line you think ‘this is unbelievable’,” explains Jorg. The idea was to encourage Romanians to buy the cheapest air ticket they could find to get into the departure lounge, where they could exchange their boarding pass for a Whopper. Jorg was so enthused about the idea that he worked with the team to put together a pitch board. Sure, Burger King wasn’t a client… but it seemed like too good an idea to waste. 

The next step was to get it to the brand. With no direct contact with Burger King’s celebrated global CMO Fernando Machado, the team opted for the last refuge of the hopeful-but-desperate – the LinkedIn message (we’ve all been there). Alas there was no response. A few months later, they followed up with a nudge but, again, no response.

And then in March 2018, fate smiled. Jorg was in Dubai to judge the Lynx awards. He was sitting having breakfast when, across the hotel restaurant floor, he spied a familiar looking polo shirt. There was Fernando, in his trademark BK top, tucking into some eggs.

“I couldn’t not see him. I thought: ‘Fuck. What should I do?’” recalls Jorg. “I didn’t know the guy back then so I thought, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Plus I had a pitch, that would help me not just be some random stalker. I went straight to him – and you know how I am, a bit Italian!”

Jorg introduced himself and mentioned that he had an idea to show Fernando. To his surprise, Fernando invited him to email the pitch over to him. To his even greater surprise, Fernando replied within twenty minutes. That evening, the two of them were sharing beers on the rooftop bar, talking over the idea and nerding out about advertising.

Jorg raced back to Bucharest and put together a media plan and budget. From the initial meeting with Fernando to completion was just six weeks. But the making off Whopper No-Show wasn’t exactly stress-free. After getting permission to shoot in the airport and flying a director over from London, the authorities at the airport got wind of the true nature of the film. It turns out that going through airport security without intention to fly is frowned upon – so they revoked their permission. Instead, the agency had to persuade participants to film themselves on their phones – hence the guerrilla look of the case study. “We went into spy movie mode!” laughs Jorg.

The Whopper No-Show case study

The campaign picked up a Bronze Lion in Direct at Cannes that year and Fernando included the case in his keynote speech at the Palais on ‘hackvertising’. But the story doesn’t end there.

In November, Jorg heard that Polish restaurant operator AmRest was planning to relaunch Burger King in the CEE region – with three outlets in Romania. And a few months after that, the Romanian team behind Burger King approached Jorg and the agency to ask them to help with the launch. They’d seen Whopper No-Show and wanted to carry on the story. There was a chemistry meet, but no pitch. 


One almost suspects that Whopper No-Show itself might have played a role in encouraging AmRest to head to Romania with Burger King… though Jorg won’t be drawn to make such a claim. “I cannot establish a precise relationship between AmRest deciding to launch [Burger King] in CEE coinciding with our campaign is a bit of a stretch, but the fact is when they decided to  do so in Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, they were the ones approaching us saying, ‘look, we saw the work that you did last year, we loved it.’”

The launch campaign is a fitting flip of Whopper No-Show. This time, the campaign targets the Romanian diaspora around Europe. Having teamed up with a budget airline operator, they offered cheap flights – the idea being that ‘now you have a reason to come back’. It’s largely an online and PR-driven campaign. It was also a massive joint effort, as Publicis, Zenith and MSL The Practice came together.

The whole story is one of faith in good ideas and trust. “I think for them, they thought the project [Whopper No-Show] was great and there was no particular reason to give it to someone else. Also they thought it could be the premise for the next campaign,” says Jorg. “It’s a juicy creative territory somehow. I’m happy, I’m happy. It’s one of those rare things.”

Ultimately, he’s full of praise for Fernando for taking that first step. He reflects that the genesis of Whopper No-Show is similar to FCB New York’s Whopper Detour, which also saw a persistent team from a non-roster agency approach with an unsolicited idea.

“He’s a sponsor and a firm believer that a great idea can come out of anywhere – you just have to have the nose to spot,” says Jorg. “He’s amazing, he’s the bench mark. I think he’s the reason that Cannes is now more and more full of clients; they look at him and think,  ‘I want to do marketing the way this guy does marketing’. He and Marcelo Pascoa – his right arm – they are literally like creative directors. They have encyclopaedic knowledge of advertising.”

Looking back on the journey, Jorg is fairly philosophical. “it’s not just about fighting, it's about having the right idea… and a little bit of luck helps,” he reflects. “If you think about it, there’s a whole cascade of lucky coincidences. To have just one Burger King in the country, is an extraordinary coincidence. Then to have the idea. Then to bump into the right guy at the right place to make it happen. And then on the basis of that, to get the whole business from a different company that is relaunching the brand… a  brand relaunch across a whole geographical area doesn’t happen every day. And then the fact that the guys knew the project and reached out to us – and then all of us having that great chemistry is another great coincidence.

“Like love and respect, merit and luck kind of go hand in hand.”

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Client

President Burger King at AmRest: Alan Laughlin

Burger King Director CE&SEE: Daniel Ryška

Marketing Manager Burger King CEE at AmRest: Makowska Katarzyna

Marketing Manager Burger King Romania: Alin Nenciu

HR Manager Burger King: Katarzyna Bieszczad,

Katarzyna Skorupska
Publicis

Chief Creative Officer Publicis Groupe Central & Eastern Europe and Publicis Romania: Jörg Riommi

Art Director: Vlad Socianu

Copywriter: Cosmin Anghel

Digital Art Director: Sherin Arabo

Art Director: Roberta Schuster

Group Creative Directors: Romulus Petcan & Gabriel Gherca

Business Leader: Radu Luca

Project Leader: Georgiana Dascalescu

Account Manager: Valentina Voicu

Account Director: Corina Tudor

Digital Account Manager: Madalina Stefan


Zenith

Communications Planner: Sorin Iriciuc

Junior Digital Media Planner: Hoang-Anh Vu

MSL The Practice

Managing Director: Oana Bulexa,

PR Director: Andreea Logigan

PR Manager: Ioana Moasa

Innovation Manager: Catalin Bran

Experience & Events Manager: Cristina Chicus

PR Executive: Alexandra Ivan

Categories: Food, Food Delivery Services

Publicis Groupe Northern & Central Europe, 10 months ago