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Smashburger Eyes UK, Readies U.S. Ads

Smashburger is preparing to join fast-casual burger compatriots Shake Shack and Five Guys in the UK while also readying its most serious advertising effort at home.

Smashburger adSmashburger has hired Tim Lowther—who has worked in the UK for both Shake Shack (as business manager) and Five Guys (head of UK North operations), according to The Caterer—as its managing director there. At the same time, it is scouting for its first locations. Ideally that will include a London presence, according to founder Tom Ryan, but a spot in the pricey capital needn’t be one of the first. Ryan said Smashburger will open “a couple of stores before the end of the year,” reportedly with an ultimate target of 35 locations.

Reflecting its localized U.S. menus, Ryan said it would “more than likely have a London burger, or a burger for Scotland. I am sure we will have one for Wales and we may even have one for places like Birmingham.”

Despite having a national network of 400+ locations, Smashburger never has been a substantial advertiser. Today before noon, McDonald’s will spend more than the $3.8 million Smashburger spent on advertising in 2014. Two years ago, it hired Denver’s Definite Productions to create a 30-second TV spot—with the tagline “What’s a Smashburger?”—that aired briefly in a handful of markets.

Smashburger recently hired a new agency of record—Mono in Minneapolis—that Ad Age says will soon launch new print, radio, out-of-home and “experiential” advertising. TV is not likely to be part of the mix.

What’s the angle going to be? In explaining the selection, Smashburger CMO Josh Kern said in a statement, “The team at Mono clearly demonstrated a passion for the Smashburger brand as well as the ability to help us tell the story of the brand as the new way to eat a burger.” Those last seven words would make a great tagline, eh?