The Saatchi & Saatchi campaign has been popular with customers but unpopular with franchisees. Add in disappointing sales results and the December departure of the campaign's champion, Chief Marketing Officer Ian Rowden, and reports are circulating that the $435 million push is being primed for an overhaul.
Speculation about a wigged-out Wendy's reached a fever pitch last week when George Parker, an advertising consultant who blogs at adscam.typepad.com wrote, "All production has ceased at Saatchi concerning Wendy's and the red-wig campaign." Mr. Parker, who cited a person in the agency, said the fast feeder was considering an agency move.
According to a Wendy's franchisee contacted by Advertising Age, a wholesale change is not in the works, but MDC Partners' Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners might be given additional responsibilities as the chain rolls out its breakfast menu and some new beverage items this year. However, Wendy's spokesperson Bob Bertini said that because Wendy's will be focusing on breakfast this year, it is only natural for Kirshenbaum Bond's workload to increase.
A spokeswoman for Publicis Groupe's Saatchi declined to comment on either a shift in responsibilities or the future of the red wig.
According to the franchisee, any shifts in marketing could be blamed on lackluster sales. Wendy's same-store sales fell 0.8% in the fourth quarter, while competitors such as McDonald's surged.
"The red wig has become an excellent icon," the franchisee said. "People see that red wig and they think of Wendy's, but to that you have to attach an emotion or rational link, and that's what we've been lacking."
Added the franchisee: "My impression is that the red wig will not disappear, but the executions you've seen will likely change."