Rally's Big Buford ads stir controversy

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A Rally's Hamburgers franchisee thinks the chain is making a big mistake with risque advertising for the new Big Buford bur-ger. Big enough to ask local radio stations to boycott the campaign.

Doug and Dennis Shiels, with a single Rally's outlet in Adrian, Mich., are protesting the new radio and TV effort for the double-burger Big Buford, on the grounds that its sexually suggestive tone will alienate customers.

Radio commercials from McCabe & Co., New York, began airing in February, and a TV spot broke last week.

In the TV commercial, a man driving a car with two women watches them ogling a construction worker eating the burger. After asking, "What has he got that I haven't got," the response is "Big Buford." Comments are made to the women such as "you like it big," and the tagline is "It's not the size, it's the taste, stupid."

The Shiels first asked Rally's not to run the spot but were turned down. After that the Shiels took the unusual step of asking local radio stations to turn down the advertising.

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McCabe principal Ed McCabe said the TV commerical, running in 30% of the country, wasn't planned to run in Adrian.

"The radio has been running for a week and we've had no flak," he said. "The franchisee doesn't have a sense of humor."

Evan Hughes, chief administrative officer of the 494-store chain, said franchisees were offered an alternative campaign. Mr. Hughes defended the creative, saying Rally's has "one-seventh the budget of McDonald's" and needs breakthrough advertising.

He dismissed the notion that the ads could be too hot to handle. Instead, he maintains the advertising will put some sizzle into the burger chain.

Rally's, with sales of $275 million as of third-quarter 1995, spent $7 million on advertising during the first nine months of last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Copyright March 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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