RALLY'S TURNAROUND RECIPE RELIES ON HELPING OF CARL'S JR.

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Hoping to add sizzle to sales, Rally's Hamburgers is copying another chain's successful ads.

Rally's new TV effort, to break this week, is more than just inspired by a campaign for West Coast fast-feeder Carl's Jr.-it is a wholesale lift. But it's not really purloining a rival's work; a major shareholder of Rally's also happens to be the parent of Carl's Jr.

BORROWING ELEMENTS

As the cornerstone of a turnaround strategy for the long-ailing burger chain, Rally's CEO Donald Doyle is borrowing elements from Carl's Jr.'s own rebound, including some menu items and a humorous ad campaign by Mendelsohn/Zien, Los Angeles.

The two chains have shared the shop since July, when Rally's pulled its estimated $14 million account from McCabe & Co., New York.

And the synergies don't end there: Carl's Jr. parent Carl Karcher Enterprises this summer bought 19.5% of Rally's, with the option to eventually purchase up to 34% at a discounted price.

As part of the purchase, Rally's and Carl's Jr. no longer compete against each other in the same markets. Carl's Jr. stores are in the West, while the Rally's chain is predominantly in the Southeast.

Rally's Mr. Doyle is himself a former CEO at Carl Karcher Enterprises.

The new spots, based on the Carl's Jr. Double Dripper series of burgers, tout the size, juiciness, flavor and sloppiness of Rally's burgers, such as the new Super Star.

One spot turns the tables on a pigeon. This time it's the bird's head that's splotched-with sauce from a window washer high above eating his burger. The commercials include the tagline, "If it doesn't get all over the place, it doesn't belong in your face."

LESS CONTROVERSIAL

The new campaign seems likely to generate less controversy than Rally's last effort from McCabe. A Michigan franchisee asked local radio stations to boycott that campaign because of its sexually suggestive nature (AA, March 4).

Rally's posted $355.1 million in sales for fiscal 1995. It spent $10 million in advertising last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Sales were $123.5 million for third-quarter 1996, ended Sept. 29, down 9.4% for the year-earlier period. Rally's executives hope the Carl's Jr.-inspired ads can help stem an 11.9% slide in same-store sales.

The Mendelsohn ads are credited with playing a significant role in improving fortunes for Carl's Jr. Same-store sales, which languished throughout fiscal 1995 and part of 1996, were up 10.3% through the second quarter of fiscal '97, ended Aug. 12.

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