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A crazy campaign stunt contributed to McDonald’s relationship with its agency breaking down

A crazy campaign stunt contributed to McDonald’s relationship with its agency breaking down

McDonald's recently made big waves in the ad industry by switching from Omnicom as its lead creative agency to Wieden and Kennedy.

According to McDonald's CMO Morgan Flatley and sources close to the company, the primary reason for McDonald's change was a desire for more memorable ad campaigns. An internal memo from Wieden and Kennedy leadership, first reported by Business Insider, supported that theory.

Read more: McDonald's demanded that Omnicom create an ad agency dedicated to its business. Now that unit will fold.

Sources say the "bacon record" pitch was a key example of the difficulties that led to Omnicom losing much of McDonald's business

Many marketers turn to viral stunts and try to piggyback on pop culture to get noticed. Yet McDonald's often hesitated to take risks, according to several parties who worked on the account. One failed effort involved two seemingly win-win elements: Pop music and bacon.

Earlier this year, the chain offered a "bacon hour" deal that let consumers get free bacon with any item for 60 minutes each day. Three sources familiar with the project told Business Insider that the creative team at We Are Unlimited, the dedicated agency that Omnicom created to service McDonald's, proposed promoting the deal by creating a fully-functioning LP made of bacon.

That's right…this pork album would work in any record player. One party described it as "a playable, edible record made out of bacon."

The episode provides an inside look into how agency-client relationships play out every day in the ad industry

Two people familiar with the business said the plan was to produce several copies of the same record, send them to media outlets, and create a making-of video to push on digital platforms. Trouble started when vendors said the project would be difficult to pull off because, according to one party, the greasy product would "ruin record presses."

McDonald's marketing team — and much of agency leadership — ultimately balked at the idea due to its challenging execution and research and development costs, estimated at about $15,000, according to the two sources close to the business.

All three people who spoke to Business Insider about the bacon project said it showed why the relationship between McDonald's and We Are Unlimited ultimately broke down. It also shows the back-and-forth debates that agencies and clients go through every day.

As a result of losing the business, We Are Unlimited folded into its parent network, DDB, Business Insider first reported.

Several current and former We Are Unlimited employees emphasized that, despite failed ideas like the bacon record, the agency consists of hard-working teams dedicated to the McDonald's business who have tried to find new placements for colleagues that recently lost their jobs.

Spokespeople for McDonald's and DDB declined to comment.