ARBY'S, SILVER'S MERGER GIVES EDGE TO DONER

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Agencies for Arby's and Long John Silver's Restaurants are anxiously awaiting the outcome of the fast-food merger.

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Arby's proposed $525 million acquisition of the seafood chain won't be completed until December. But Arby's agency, W.B. Doner & Co., Baltimore, and Long John Silver's agency, Temerlin/McClain, Dallas, are hoping to retain a share of the combined $65 million in media expenditures.

Both marketers say no agency changes are imminent. Each shop may well continue to work on its individual brand; Triarc Cos. unit Arby's currently intends to use only 600 of the combined 4,200 units for dual branding. But the likelihood of two shops working on a dual branding concept is slim.

Doner, set to roll national with Arby's "Go west" repositioning this weekend, has the edge as the buyer's agency. In May, 12 Arby's regional co-ops consolidated their accounts at Doner, raising the agency's co-op spending to more than $7 million, in addition to the $30 million national account.

Long John Silver's, Lexington, Ky., has been relatively quiet of late on the marketing front, continuing to run its "Go fish" campaign with an emphasis on new baked chicken and fish meals.

The companies had combined sales of $2.4 billion in 1993, good for No. 8 among fast-food companies that year.

The timing of the acquisition is curious, as a new management team is poised to revive the roast beef heritage at Arby's, where second-quarter same-store sales were flat.

Several of Arby's dual-branding tests have proved fruitful. During the past year the chain has converted 15 stores in four markets to co-branded units with partners Long John Silver's, Sbarro's, Mrs. Winner's Chicken and Green Burrito Restaurants.

By combining Arby's lunch menu with its partners' dinner-focused meals, Arby's boosted average unit volume at the dual brand locations by 50%.

Co-branding has become an attractive idea in fast-food, as marketers wake up to the savings in real estate, labor and marketing.

Carl Karcher Enterprises, Anaheim, Calif., recently agreed to a co-branding test with Green Burrito, and PepsiCo has been aggressive in combining its three restaurant franchises.

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