The TV spot from Jordan, McGrath, Case & Taylor, New York, is a recut version of an ad used in a market test last summer. The spot, shot in the style of a reality-based police TV show, spoofs a state trooper pulling over a motorist for speeding away from a restaurant thanks to quick service. The original 30-second test spot depicted the trooper making off with the motorist's bag of food as he hums and says, "I love this job."
That commercial sparked protests from various police groups charging the trooper was portrayed in a bad light.
The seafood chain decided to keep the ad, albeit slightly altered, for the systemwide rollout of the 99 cents sandwiches that began Sept. 14, said Daniel Fullmer, Long John Silver's director of brand management.
Only the ending has been changed in the new version; the offending line was edited out and the spot now concludes with the focus on the motorist.
Sales were up when the spot ran in the test markets of Fresno, Calif.; San Antonio and Austin, Texas; and Toledo, Ohio.
"During the test, we had dramatic improvements in our sales, traffic and profit trends," Mr. Fullmer said. "Combined with that, we were getting a lot of notice in terms of the commercial we were running. We made some minor adjustments that would make all parties happy."
UP 15% IN 10 DAYS
In the first 10 days of the current rollout, sales at the 1,422-unit chain were up some 15% over the same period a year ago, Mr. Fullmer said.
But not all parties are pleased.
The 270,000-member National Fraternal Order of Police late last month called for a nationwide boycott of Long John Silver's. The group acknowledged the chain has worked to address its concerns, but it is not satisfied with the revised ad and wants the spot pulled.
"It is apparent that Long John Silver's finds it more important to sell fish sandwiches than to respect the integrity of the law enforcement profession," Gilbert Gallegos, the group's president, said in a statement."Their refusal to pull this ad . . . shows their total insensitivity to the oftentimes fragile relationship between law enforcement officers and citizens."
The threat of a boycott isn't derailing the ad, said Bruce Hinton, senior director of public relations for Long John Silver's.
"I apologize if they find the commercial offensive. But humor is in the eye of the beholder," he said.
The two Grab & Go sandwiches, chicken or fish on a bun with sauce and lettuce, are the first of what may become a more extensive sandwich line for the chain, which has been known more for its seafood dinners than as a fast-food outlet.
Before now, Long John Silver's had one sandwich, the Ultimate Fish Sandwich.
"They are simple, tasty and easy to eat," Mr. Fullmer said of the new sandwiches.
Dennis Lombardi, exec VP at foodservice consultancy Technomic, said sandwiches are a first step for more lunch business. "My concern would be are two sandwiches going to do it?" he said.
Long John Silver's tapped Jordan McGrath last March to handle creative for its estimated $60 million account, ending an eight-year relationship with Termerlin