POPEYES BACKS ITS CHICKEN WITH $14 MIL TV CAMPAIGN: FAST-FOOD CHAIN'S RED AND ZEKE, LONGTIME SLOGAN RETURN TO ADS

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Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits wants to save Americans from bland chicken.

The fast-food chain tries to accomplish its goal with a $14 million TV campaign breaking today that touts the virtues of Popeyes Cajun-style fried chicken.

The spots bring back Red and Zeke, renegade yet goofy spokescharacters introduced last year by agency Hill, Holliday/Altschiller, New York, and continue the longtime slogan "Love that chicken."

The new effort includes increased franchisee spending in key markets, including Chicago and Los Angeles, and commercials in Spanish for the chain's Hispanic markets. Popeyes local shops are handling the Spanish-language efforts.

"[Franchisees] increased their contribution on a voluntary basis to get more advertising out there because they were so successful with increased advertising in 1998," said Tom Whitley, VP-advertising.

The chain spent $12.4 million in measured media last year, up from $10 million in 1997, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Some 80% of the chain's restaurants are operated by franchisees.

IMAGE-BUILDING SPOTS

The campaign begins with two 30-second image-building spots. Six additional :30s will break throughout the year to promote limited-time offers and price deals.

In one image spot, Red and Zeke try to save a young man about to leap off a tall building because he's been eating bad chicken. In another, they intercept patrolmen on the way back to headquarters.

Both focus on fried chicken, which accounts for 70% of Popeyes sales.

FLAVOR MESSAGE

The promotional spots feature the pair as announcers in a van as they carry their flavor message across the country. One spot in May will promote crawfish.

The marketer targets viewers of daytime and late-night TV programming to seed the idea for a Popeyes dinner meal with moms and with people who might stop by for lunch.

Mr. Whitley said the media plan was fine-tuned by consultant Ron Polk, president of Spectrum One.

Chuck Kushell, president of Hill, Holliday/Altschiller, said the agency also created 20 different "bookends" that the brand franchisees can use at the beginning and end of local promo spots.

According to Popeyes, same-store sales rose about 5.3% last year.

"Red and Zeke have attitude," he said. "And they carry the message [that] if your taste buds are looking for a change from bland fast-food, Popeyes is the place."

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