ARBY'S ADS FOCUS ON FOOD QUALITY: FAMOUS VOICES HAWK SANDWICHES IN FAST-FEEDER'S $50 MIL CAMPAIGN

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The Arby's fast-food chain is banking on a new $50 million TV campaign spotlighting taste and quality to set it apart from bigger-spending competitors such as McDonald's Corp. and Burger King Corp.

The campaign, which has begun rolling out in Arby's markets across the country, features celebrity voices over luscious close-ups of sandwiches being assembled, and a new tagline, "Love food? Think Arby's."

CELEBRITY LINEUP

The celebrity lineup includes Ray Charles, Barry White and Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Ivana Trump, the high-profile divorcee who was in the fast-food spotlight in 1995 when she was in an ad for Pizza Hut's Stuffed Crust Pizza, touts Arby's French Dip Sub.

"Arby's fulfills all my needs," Ms. Trump says over a shot of a roast beef sub being dunked in gravy, "and it doesn't require a prenuptial agreement."

W.B. Doner & Co., Baltimore, created the campaign, which includes 14 spots.

AD SPENDING UP 10%

Lloyd Fritzmeier, president of AFA Service Corp., the marketing arm for Arby's and its 3,000 restaurants, said ad spending has been boosted by about 10%.

Last year, the chain spent $44.4 million on advertising, according to Competitive Media Reporting. By comparison, industry leader McDonald's Corp. spent $600 million in 1996.

Arby's is a subsidiary of Triarc Cos., and is the 11th-largest U.S. fast-food chain, according to restaurant consultancy Technomic Inc.

The chain posted sales of about $2 billion last year.

Arby's, which built its business on roast beef sandwiches and has struggled through several management changes in recent years, has focused much of recent advertising on the fast-feeder's Western theme-the brand's logo is a cowboy hat.

TURNING TO FOOD

Mr. Fritzmeier said that now the chain wants to feature its food, and capitalize on research that shows consumers perceive Arby's as a cut above its competitors.

It was a calculated move to use celebrity voices only, noted Scott Lippitt, exec VP-group account director at Doner, and not one of economy.

"If we used the on-camera celebrity, it would overwhelm the food and the superior taste message. By only using the voice and the name, the food is center stage," he said. "There are probably 21 or 22 seconds on food photography in these spots."

Bill Bruslan, a longtime Arby's franchisee based in Los Angeles, said he likes the new campaign, although it's too early to say whether it's translating into increased sales.

'LEARNING WHO WE ARE'

"They are finally learning who we are and where we should be," he said. "We have great products. The public doesn't know about it. The advertising now is conveying that to the public."

Separately, Arby's is slated to introduce a new line of fried appetizers next month, called Sidekickers.

The appetizers include mozzarella sticks, stuffed jalapeno peppers and onion petals, products that typically show up on menus of higher-price casual dining

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