COLUMBUS, Ohio — Wendy's International Inc. will scrap its eight-month old advertising campaign — much of it built on young men wearing a red wig with braided pigtails — amid continued weak sales, the nation's third-largest hamburger chain announced Monday.
The campaign, which debuted during the season finale of "American Idol" in May, has generated attention, but hasn't translated into improved sales, the company said.
"It was a love it or hate it kind of spot," said Bob Holtcamp, Wendy's vice president of brand marketing.
The campaign was built on the slogan "That's right." It was meant to rely on humor to emphasize the chain's made-to-order food and unfrozen beef it sought to build sales among younger consumers. In several ads, customers wear a red wig that looks like the pigtails on Wendy, the chain's mascot based on founder Dave Thomas' daughter of the same name.
The slogan for a new campaign, released Monday at Wendy's national convention in Orlando, Fla., is "It's waaaay better than fast food. It's Wendy's."
The red wig remains part of the campaign, designed by kirshenbaum bond + partners, but the focus is on the company's familiar Wendy logo.
The logo opens and closes each ad. An animated Wendy holds a fishing rod in one ad to introduce the new fish sandwich. In other ads, she takes a bite out of a hamburger or holds a piggy bank to promote Wendy's super value menu.
The new campaign better represents Wendy's traditions while still focusing on the key target audience of 18-to-34-year-olds, Kerrii Anderson, Wendy's president and chief executive, said in an interview.
"It feels like Wendy's again," she said.
Holtcamp said Wendy's emphasis on its quality food was getting distracted by the red wig campaign.
The change comes after the chain reported this month that sales at stores opened at least a year — considered a key indicator of a retailer's strength — fell 0.8 percent at U.S. company restaurants in the fourth quarter compared with a 3.1 percent increase in the fourth quarter of 2006. At franchise restaurants, same-store sales were up 0.2 percent for the quarter, compared with a 2.7 percent increase the year before.
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For the year, same-store sales rose 0.9 percent for company stores and 1.9 percent for franchise stores compared with a 0.8 percent increase in U.S. company stores and a 0.6 percent increase at U.S. franchise stores in 2006.
After reaching a high of $44.22 last summer, Wendy's stock price has been cut nearly in half, closing down $1.34, or 5.3 percent, to $23.92 Monday. Its 52-week low is $22.48.
The company formed a committee last spring to study options to boost its stock price that could include a possible sale. Billionaire investor Nelson Peltz, who controls 9.8 percent of Wendy's stock along with his allies, submitted an offer to buy Wendy's in November, but the proposed price is lower than the $37 to $41 a share that he previously said it was worth.
The committee said Monday in a statement that its review is nearly complete.
Wendy's spends about $300 million a year in advertising. The red wig campaign was developed by Saatchi & Saatchi, the agency responsible for Wendy's "Where's the Beef?" campaign.
The campaigns are among several Wendy's has tried since the 2002 death of Thomas, who appeared in more than 800 ads.
Wendy's, based in the Columbus suburb of Dublin, operates about 6,700 restaurants in the United States and aboard. It trails McDonald's Corp. and Burger King Holdings Inc. in the burger business.
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