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How Earth's Trendiest Adman Helped Get His Agency Fired by Burger King

The breakup of Burger King and its ad agency, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, is a textbook case of how agency-client relationships end. Recent management turmoil at the client was bad enough, but CP+B, the U.S.'s hottest ad agency, compounded its problems by insulting the client and letting its best-known executive, creative chief Alex Bogusky, walk off into the sunset amid the crisis.

The BK-CP+B relationship was celebrated for several innovative campaigns, including Subservient Chicken; the creepy, grinning Burger King figure; and the Whopper Freakout, in which customers were told erroneously that the burger had been pulled from the menu. The efforts cemented Bogusky's rep as the hottest ad executive in the business; he remains widely admired on Madison Avenue.

No matter how good the creative, however, it cannot withstand the No.1 rule of the ad biz: When the individuals who forged the agency-client relationship disappear, the agency can expect to be fired. Here's the timeline of turmoil:

The mishandling of Burger King will be costly for both the agency and its parent, MDC Partners (MDCA). BK spent $301 million on ads in 2010, and at one point my back-of-the-envelope math calculated that BK was about 20 percent of CP+B's entire business. Cue crisis at CP+B.

And while Bogusky was once hailed as a creative genius who grew a small Miami ad shop into a global presence, he now looks like a destructive egomaniac who trashed his clients and walked out on his colleagues as soon as it made him colossally rich. While CP+B could not control the changes at the client, Bogusky's actions were all well within his control and entirely preventable. Way to go, Alex.


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