Wendy's Takes First Stab at Viral Video With 'Crazy Lettuce'

But Baconator Film Gets Mixed Reviews on MySpace, YouTube

By Published on .

CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- When it comes to fast-feeders, the quirky viral video has largely been the domain of Burger King. But square-burger marketer Wendy's is trying to get the buzz headed its way with a new video called "Crazy Lettuce."

The viral concept was spun out of TV spots the shop created. In one, a man shuns a bite of salad offered by the woman across the table. "I can't eat that," he says. "I'm a meatatarian." In an effort to co-op the meatatarian message, Wendy's worked with Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, New York, on the video, which shows a head of lettuce devouring a Baconator sandwich (two beef patties, two slices of cheese and six slices of bacon). The work is its first effort in the space and a stark departure for the chain, which made its name by way of simple homespun ads by the company's founder, Dave Thomas.

So far, results for the film are mixed. Reviews are overwhelmingly positive on MySpace, where it has received 82,000 views, and heavily negative on YouTube, where it picked up about 16,000.

Anti-marketing demographic
It could be a matter of audience. Jeff Taylor, a 23-year-old who blogs at MillennialMarketer.com, said he doesn't think the video will track with Gen Y. He noted that it has yet to have any imitators, a key indicator of success. Another thing that could work against it: The finicky demographic hates to be marketed to, and on YouTube, the film is prominently flagged as a viral video for Wendy's.

"They don't appreciate campaigns that are overtly 'We're trying to get you to share this video,'" said Mr. Taylor. "They'll kind of push back if they decide the campaign is supposed to be viral from the start."

But on MySpace, many of the commentators claim to love the video. One user, L. Kay, wrote, "I have to keep watching it over, and over, and over again! Genius!"

Izzy DeBellis, executive creative director at Kirshenbaum, said the effort is aimed at a "psychographic" rather than a demographic. "That would seem like the obvious thing, but I don't think that's Wendy's in general. We're not targeting solely an 18- to 24-year-old target," he said. (The chain is known to have an older-than-average core customer.) What it is looking for, said Mr. DeBellis, are serious meat-eaters.

The big idea
He said that the idea of a "meatatarian" kept rising to the top as his team was looking for ways to promote the Baconator. "We loved the idea of something that was bigger than a TV commercial or one word on a billboard," he said.

Mr. DeBellis said it's difficult to set a bar for success for "Crazy Lettuce," which was done for $25,000, while the average TV commercial costs more than $300,000.

Wendy's could use a home run. Second-quarter net income fell 32% on higher commodity costs and sluggish sales. Same-store sales were up only 0.1% at company-owned restaurants, and 1.1% at franchised locations.

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