WENDY'S WON'T DUMP DAVE ADS-FOR NOW: FOUNDER FACES OPEN HEART SURGERY.

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Although facing open-heart surgery, Wendy's International founder Dave Thomas will continue to pitch the fast-food chain's bacon cheeseburgers, french fries and other menu items, at least for the current campaign.

"No plans to change our ads are anticipated," said Denny Lynch, VP-corporate communications, adding that a full flight of spots has been shot to extend through spring 1997.

Wendy's is currently airing its 500th commercial featuring Mr. Thomas, promoting the chain's Smoky Bacon Cheeseburger. Bates USA, New York, handles.

FOR THE HOLIDAYS

In the spot, Mr. Thomas hands out Smoky Bacon Cheeseburger Combos to a man selling Christmas trees and officers at a police station, while wishing them happy holidays.

Mr. Thomas, 64, was hospitalized Dec. 14 after complaining of chest pains. He is scheduled to undergo coronary bypass surgery.

Mr. Lynch said even if doctors were to tell Mr. Thomas to cut back on burgers, he'd still have plenty to talk about.

"You've got to look at the big picture," he said. "Dave built this company on the idea of menu variety. Wendy's company image goes beyond purely hamburgers. We were among the first to do grilled chicken, salads and baked potatoes."

About three years ago, Mr. Thomas shed 50 pounds and was featured on the talk-show circuit talking about Wendy's healthful menu options.

GARNER WAS REPLACED

Similar situations have posed problems for marketers in the past. Actor James Garner underwent heart surgery in 1988 while serving as a spokesman for the Beef Industry Council. Although Mr. Garner attributed his illness to smoking, he was replaced in that role within months.

Mr. Thomas, who has been the company's pitchman since 1989, has been widely credited with building sales in recent years.

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