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Burger King Brings Back Chicken Fries, Dipping Into Crispin Era Again

Digitally Led Campaign Will Include CP&B TV Ad From 2005

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Advertising Age Player

After resurrecting its Subservient Chicken campaign this spring, Burger King is again looking to its past, this time to bring back Chicken Fries for a limited time.

The product, chicken strips in fry formation, debuted in 2005 and went on to become one of the chain's best-selling items. But they fell off the Burger King menu in 2012 as a slew of new products fought for space, Burger King Chief Marketing Officer Eric Hirschhorn said.

Fans of the product have been asking the chain to bring them back, even starting a Change.org petition, Mr. Hirschhorn said, noting that after Chicken Fries first went away, there was one tweet every 40 seconds about them. But then call for the resurrection of Chicken Fries reached critical mass after BuzzFeed published a list in January about extinct foods. After that, he said, online chatter "went from this healthy level of conversation to a huge spike in demand, and it just grew and grew."

The campaign will be led by Code and Theory, Burger King's digital agency. Mr. Hirschhorn said that Code and Theory is handling the digitally led campaign because the shop took their insights from handling the digital business and noted the strong demand for the reintroduction of Chicken Fries.

This is the first time Burger King will have a predominantly digital campaign, Mr. Hirschhorn said, but there is a TV spot -- one that former BK agency CP&B created in 2005. The TV spot is largely intact, with the only modification being the addition of a Throwback Thursday hashtag, playing on the popular social media meme in which users post old photos of themselves. Burger King's lead global agency David modified the CP&B ad. Mr. Hirschhorn said he believes this is the first time a marketer has brought Throwback Thursday to TV. For the duration of the campaign, the spot will only air on Thursdays.

This summer Burger King has been continuing to advertise its two sandwiches for $5 promotion, but the chain was more active on the marketing front this spring with its new "Be your way" tagline, the appointment of David as its lead global agency and the return of the Subservient Chicken campaign for its Big King Sandwich.

Like Subservient Chicken, Chicken Fries came from the CP&B era (though the Barbarian Group worked on Subservient Chicken with CP&B). But along with Subservient Chicken, the development and marketing of Chicken Fries was archetypal of the kind of bizarre, attention-grabbing work that Burger King and CP&B put out in the mid-2000s.

And Chicken Fries certainly did get attention when they first arrived in 2005. Former CP&B lead Alex Bogusky was later quoted in the 2010 book, "The Idea Writers": "You could probably argue that Chicken Fries has done more for BK's business than any amount of advertising we've done."

Like McDonald's, Burger King this year has been scaling back its new product introductions, as fast food chains have discovered that menus with too many items tend to slow down operations. Burger King last year said it was deliver "fewer, more impactful" items, which execs at the company said during its second quarter earnings call this month has been paying off and is is key to driving franchisee profits.

Burger King in its most recent quarter posted relatively flat same-store sales, up 0.4% in the U.S. and Canada and up 0.9% globally. However, Carrolls Restaurant Group, Burger King's largest franchisee, reported second quarter same-store sales that fell 2%, a decline it blamed on a decrease in local advertising spending.

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