Late Founder Dave Thomas Approved Theme's Homespun Appeal

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Wendy's International tonight debuts a new new round of advertising, the first created specifically without the burger chain's late founder and pitchman, Dave Thomas.

In trying to capture Mr. Thomas' Everyman appeal, the chain is using its hometown of Dublin, Ohio, to represent the brand. The concept, which was tested for two years, apparently got the thumb's up from Mr. Thomas last summer.

Don Calhoon, Wendy's executive vice president of marketing, said the idea was to create a place that could encompass all the chain's branding stories.

Anywhere, USA
"That place is Dublin, Ohio," he said, calling the town a microcosm

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of Anywhere, USA. "Dublin has the same kind of values that Dave represents and Wendy's represents, friendliness and concern [for others] and family. It's very consistent with where we've been, and the Dublin site continues with a human touch of advertising that Dave represented."

The new campaign theme declares, "It's better here." "Here" happens to be in Florida, where the spots were shot the week Mr. Thomas died by the chain's longtime ad agency, Cordiant Communication Group's Bates Worldwide, New York. Future spots, though, will be filmed in the Columbus, Ohio, suburb beginning this summer, with the hopes of bringing the "everytown" concept to urban and other settings as well.

The new effort will also continue to mirror past campaigns, which often focused on specific menu offerings.

Visiting city officials
Two weeks ago, Mr. Calhoon previewed the campaign to Dublin city officials for their reaction and then ran newspaper ads to alert the community that their hometown was about to become the backdrop of the campaign. Mr. Calhoon said the city's residents were enthusiastic that they may wind up in future spots.

Mr. Calhoon shared with the officials an idea for a future "Late Night" spot that centered around a hometown astronomy club where a father and son see the neon Wendy's sign through the telescope. Of course, Mr. Calhoon didn't know if such a club even existed.

"The officials said maybe they'd start one," he said with a laugh.

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