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Wendy's International this spring tries to rope in the prized fast-food customer -- hungry young males -- with a new TV campaign touting its hamburgers.

In a departure from recent strategy, the nation's No. 3 fast-food chain plans to reintroduce a three-patty burger sandwich. It also will restage menu boards in its 4,600-plus U.S. outlets to spotlight burger combos.

A spokesman for Wendy's said the new advertising will introduce a sustained campaign with its own burger-oriented theme line. Wendy's currently does not have a unifying theme line for its commercials.


The burger-centric ads, to be unveiled next month, feature the chain's avuncular founder Dave Thomas, who marks his 10th anniversary as pitchman this spring. Bates USA, New York, Wendy's longtime agency, is handling the assignment.

While the spokesman declined to discuss the content of the ads, he did say they won't revive the hugely popular theme line from the mid-1980s, "Where's the beef?" or the chain's first network TV theme line, "Hot 'n Juicy."

"The focal point will be the hamburger attributes, what differentiates Wendy's from our competitors," he said. "It's not a retro campaign. It will be a modern day effort."

He declined to say what portion of the chain's $250 million media budget will be devoted to the effort.

The burger spots will be broadcast in rotation with other product advertising, and financed in part by an infusion of marketing dollars from beverage supplier Coca-Cola Co. (AA Oct. 19).

The focus on beef marks a departure for the restaurant chain. In recent years, the chain has trumpeted quality and variety in its advertising, giving national airtime to such limited-time offers as Montery Ranch Chicken or Stuffed Pita sandwiches.


The effort is an attempt to reach out to heavy fast-food users, males 18 to 24. That's the core customer of rivals McDonald's Corp. and Burger King Corp.

Wendy's typical target has been adult men and women who are not necessarily sensitive to price.

The burger push comes as both McDonald's and No. 5 Jack in the Box roll out new cooking systems designed to serve up tastier fare. For its part, Wendy's has quietly instituted a new service program during the past six months to ensure its staffers serve burgers that are as hot and juicy as possible.

Ron Paul, president of restaurant consultancy Technomic, said Wendy's challenge will be to keep its point of difference as a quality player with a varied menu.

"They have succeeded in differentiating themselves by heavy advertising of their specialty sandwiches," he said. "In the past they were purely on the burger bandwagon. With Dave Thomas, they have been able to get out of the clutter. You can come to Wendy's for more than burgers."

One executive with an East Coast Wendy's franchise said he's in favor of the new focus: "We are a more adult-oriented concept than McDonald's. We have an opportunity for a younger audience."


Wendy's isn't ignoring other age segments. This year the chain plans to spend 50% more than last year marketing its Kids' Meals, the company said in its most recent earnings release.

Wendy's, which also operates Tim Hortons doughnut shops, posted sales of $6.5

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