TRICON ENLISTS FORCE OF THREE FOR 'STAR WARS': KFC, TACO BELL AND PIZZA HUT KICK OFF JOINT EFFORT ON MAY 12

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Tricon Global Restaurants will use its exclusive link with "Star Wars" to stage its biggest battle yet, combining the forces of KFC Corp., Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.

"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, every restaurant up and down your street would kill to have," asserted Terry Davenport, chief concept officer of Tricon's chicken chain, KFC.

VIDEOTAPE REMARKS

Mr. Davenport made his remarks in a video distributed to KFC franchisees last week, a copy of which was obtained by Advertising Age.

Tricon-parent of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut-launches the first major promotion across all three chains May 12, nine days before the hugely hyped premiere of "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Episode 1."

For the first time in a decade, KFC won't discount its food during the summer, a season when most players in the fiercely competitive $110 billion fast-food business try to reel in consumers with price breaks. The 5,100-unit chain expects a huge draw this summer because of the "Star Wars" link, Mr. Davenport said on the video.

Advertising starts with a print ad to 75 million households in every KFC trade area, he said.

The first six weeks of TV advertising will tout "Defeat the Dark Side," a game consumers can only play if they visit all three Tricon chains.

The restaurants will offer instant-win prizes-such as Crispy Strips, medium pizzas and free tacos-and collect-and-win prizes, including a $1 million cash prize. KFC's push on network TV will run through July 4.

Tricon enlisted TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., to handle advertising for the joint, three-chain promotion. It's a project separate from the agency's hugely popular Taco Bell work starring a talking Chihuahua.

BUDGETING UNCLEAR

It was unclear whether each chain will have its own separate advertising during the push or how much Tricon is contributing to the media budget above the chains' combined $500 million in annual spending.

BBDO Worldwide, New York, is Pizza Hut's agency, and Y&R Advertising handles KFC.

Tricon declined to discuss specifics about the promotion. But a spokeswoman said: "The tie-in will provide us with a unique opportunity to encourage customers worldwide to try all three of our brands."

The overall effort across all Tricon's restaurants will include 28 different toys that can be collected from each chain. The toys come in boxes with "Star Wars" graphics that can be assembled to create a backdrop to play out a scene from the movie. The toys will be free with kids' meals or can be bought separately for $1.49.

Each chain will sell its own four drink cups in the shape of "Star Wars" characters that can be assembled to make up a 12-cup set.

RETAINED SHARE

The fast-food chains were spun off from PepsiCo in 1997. Thanks to an exclusive $2 billion marketing pact PepsiCo signed in 1996 with the "Star Wars" franchise, the marketer's beverage and snack-foods units, Pepsi-Cola Co. and Frito-Lay, also are linked to the film. The restaurants retained their slice of the plum deal after the spinoff.

Unique to KFC's part of the plan are foam bucket lids with two new "Star Wars" characters that kids can use like flying-saucer toys. They cost $1.99 with a bucket of chicken or $3.99 separately.

The character cups will sell for $2.49 with the purchase of a 32-ounce soft drink or $3.99 if purchased separately. They won't be advertised on TV.

MORE FROM EXISTING CUSTOMERS

"They're a great way to take your existing customers and get a couple more bucks with every offer," Mr. Davenport said in the video.

KFC hasn't had a stellar record with entertainment tie-ins. But there's no doubt executives are bullish this time around.

Said Mr. Davenport: "We have kids' toys that will make Ronald McDonald green

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