Marketing on the menu: Burger King turns to 'Apprentice' contestants for new entree

Friday, January 21st 2005, 11:05 am
By: News On 6

MIAMI (AP) _ Giving product placement a new twist, Burger King got its latest recipe from the mogul wannabes on ``The Apprentice.''

The burger being debuted in 7,800 restaurants nationwide Friday came straight out of Thursday night's episode of Donald Trump's reality TV show.

Product placement is the increasingly popular _ and sometimes criticized _ practice of sneaking advertising into shows and movies by having performers and reality TV contestants use identifiable products on the screen. Companies pay the producers for the privilege.

Thursday night's show was the premiere of the third ``Apprentice'' series, in which contestants compete for the chance to get a job with the billionaire businessman.

The two teams each had to design a new Burger King product, with help from the chain's head chef. They then had to sell it while running two busy stores in midtown Manhattan during lunchtime. The team with the most sales won.

Burger King refused to discuss financial terms of the promotion deal.

The winning team, Networth, hawked a Western Angus steak burger, loaded with cheese, barbecue sauce, onion rings, lettuce and tomatoes. (For those counting calories, that's about 700 big ones.)

``It seemed like a perfect fit for us. ... Donald Trump is a bottom-line guy,'' said Russ Klein, Burger King Corp.'s chief marketing officer.

The episode was taped months ago. But with the burger on sale Friday, he said, ``It will feel like a product has come from the boardroom into the restaurant in 24 hours.''

Burger King is planning to run a 30-second commercial featuring Trump on NBC until the end of January, Klein said. The burger should be in stores until Feb. 4.

The buzz comes as the chain seems to be recovering from a rough patch.

``I think it's a very smart marketing move,'' said Jerry McVety, president of McVety & Associates, a Farmington Hills, Mich.-based restaurant consultant. ``It's a short, quick, targeted campaign. ... It's driven more by the association with `The Apprentice' and Trump than it is with this particular burger.''

Privately held Burger King doesn't release exact sales figures, but sales at stores open at least a year have risen for 11 straight months through December, after sliding for nearly two years before that.