Arby's has appetite for adults

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With its adult positioning now established, Triarc Co.'s Arby's is testing an advertising approach designed for mature audiences.

The quick-service sandwich chain is once again tapping the star power of R&B crooner Barry White-only this time as a new character the company refers to as "Appetite Man."

Aimed at touting the "crave appeal" of the chain's menu, Arby's created a character it thought would represent how "passionate, seductive and discriminating" a person's appetite might be. The appetite "urges you to act on your real desires and not settle for ordinary fast food, because your appetite wants the best," said Lloyd Fritzmeier, president of Arby's Franchise Association.

So what better personification of what the company refers to as "passion, love and seduction" than Mr. White? The singer was also a natural choice since the company had already had good results using him in its `99 campaign.

The six-city test continues the "Satisfy your grownup tastes" theme line; Arby's won't decide whether Mr. White will get a long-term gig until June.

In the commercials, the soul singer invades people's lives with Pavlovian timing to personify their hunger pangs-first as a voice, then appearing in miniature in the amazed person's stomach. "There's a little Barry in all of us," said Scott Lippett, exec VP-group account director on Arby's at Doner, Southfield, Mich.

In one spot, a man is driving his wife, obviously in labor, to the hospital. Suddenly, he hears Mr. White say, "Hey, baby, we're in the mood for something tasty." The expectant father looks down at his stomach and sees Mr. White, who says, "This is your appetite, baby ... You gotta give in to love." The dad-to-be now asks, "But do we have time?" The appetite man has the answer: Drive through. The spot closes with the wife driving while the husband eats.

A second effort takes a direct shot at McDonald's Corp., where Mr. White asks, "Hey baby, why you eatin' that clown food?"

Separately, Arby's on April 29 makes its first national cable buy since 1985 with 17 networks. The effort supports the national rollout of Arby's Market Fresh line of deli sandwiches.

Mr. Fritzmeier said the Market Fresh line has driven a 6% sales increase since the October introduction. Because it now represents 10% to 15% of the business, Arby's franchisee board agreed to allocate a major portion of Arby's $70 million media pot against Market Fresh for two years. The fast-feeder will also add another 20% to the budget, bringing the company's total spending to between $80 million and $84 million.

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