KFC, TACO BELL COOK UP NEW PRODUCT ADS;$150 MIL BACKS TENDER ROAST AND BIG REVAMP OF MEXICAN UNIT

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Two of PepsiCo's fast-food chains are turning up the heat with spring campaigns expected to boost marketing spending by at least $150 million combined.

KFC Corp. is preparing a $50 million ad campaign for its biggest product introduction since Rotisserie Gold in 1993. Tender Roast, rolling national in mid-March, is said to be an innovation in quick-service chicken-the industry's first roast chicken sold in pieces where the customer can specify which pieces he wants.

The campaign is currently being shot in California by Young & Rubicam, New York, and is scheduled to break the third week in March.

TACO BELL REVAMP

Taco Bell, meanwhile, is working on a new campaign that will revamp the positioning at the ailing chain. It will include a new theme line, say executives familiar with the plans.

Scheduled for April launch, the effort is expected to be backed with up to $100 million in media spending.

That is in addition to the $20 million Taco Bell is shelling out in support of a new line of 4 Alarm Double Decker tacos, with a new TV spot breaking today featuring basketball star Shaquille O'Neal.

Among PepsiCo's three major fast-feeders, Taco Bell is the weakling of the group. Although yearend 1995 sales rose 5% to $3.5 billion, same-store sales fell 4%. Pizza Hut posted yearend sales of $3.9 billion, up 7%, with a same-store sales jump of 4%.

KFC, long known as a troubled division, is-with shifting ad strategies and the settlement of a bitter 7-year-old contract dispute with franchisees-fast turning into a star.

GREAT FOURTH QUARTER

For the year ended Dec. 30, KFC's sales were up 5% to $1.7 billion, but same-store sales rose 7% for the fiscal year and 14% in the fourth quarter alone, the best performance of the PepsiCo restaurant groups.

Keith Chambers, chairman of KFC's National Cooperative Advertising Program, said TV, print and radio advertising for Tender Roast will focus on the fact that consumers can now mix and match their chicken choices with pieces of the roast chicken along with other KFC offerings.

"It emphasizes you can get a bucket anyway you like it," Mr. Chambers said of the launch, which he characterized as a repositioning of Rotisserie Gold, introduced with a $100 million blitz three years ago.

The "Everybody needs a little KFC" tagline is incorporated into the new spots, he said.

KFC has been on a new-product winning streak this past year with the rollouts of the Colonel's Crispy Strips and chicken pot pie.

But Tender Roast "is going to be the product that turns the KFC image around long term," said another KFC franchisee.

FOLLOWING KFC LEAD

With 4 Alarm tacos, Taco Bell is following the new-product route that has worked for KFC.

The TV spot from Bozell/Salvati Montgomery Sakoda, Costa Mesa, Calif., breaking today, features Shaq gobbling the hot taco and literally "catching fire," thanks to special effects.

The more extensive new campaign in the works will introduce other new products and feature "value and service," said one executive who has seen the campaign.

"It has a new theme and tonality," he added.

New fast-food products aren't confined to PepsiCo units. Burger King Corp. is working on a $20 million Crossandwich and biscuit effort for spring, via Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York.

Kenny Rogers Roasters is rolling out Honey Bourbon Baby Back Ribs, said Marci Kleinsasser, director of marketing. It will be supported by a promotion campaign created in-house.

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