Wendy's Orders New Creative From Kirshenbaum

Fast Feeder Ditches Saatchi Red-Wig Campaign, Switches to Product-Centric Ads

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- It looks like Wendy's may be changing more than its hairstyle.

The fast feeder's franchisees have been asking for new product-centric ads for nearly a year, and today the chain caved, shifting more creative duties on its $435 million account from Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi to MDC Partners' Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners.

As part of the move, which ends speculation about the demise of Saatchi's offbeat and slightly creepy red-wig ads, Wendy's used its franchisee convention in Florida to unveil a new product-based campaign from Kirshenbaum that will begin airing next week. There's also a new tagline: "It's waaaay better than fast food. It's Wendy's."

'A bigger role' for Kirshenbaum
"Through the past year, we've learned more about each agency and ourselves, how to manage two different partners," said Wendy's marketer Bob Holtcamp. "Kirshenbaum Bond definitely are taking a bigger role in that the idea we presented today was really generated by them, so I would anticipate that they will take a bigger role." Mr. Holtcamp said Saatchi will remain in the mix, and duties will continue to be shifted.

As Ad Age previously reported, Saatchi's role at the helm of the fast feeder's $435 million account -- which it won only a year ago -- had been in question for months given the red-wig campaign's unpopularity with franchisees and its failure to boost same-store sales while competitors such as McDonald's posted sharp increases.

The agency's position seemed especially precarious after the December departure of Chief Marketing Officer Ian Rowden, who pulled the account from Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann Erickson and handed it to Saatchi without a formal review.

"We must raise the bar in 2008," CEO Kerrii Anderson said in a statement. "To reinvigorate sales growth, we are executing our strategic plan, focusing on strengthening operations, launching new products and taking decisive action." Wendy's today also said it has nearly completed a review of strategic options. The company, which operates 6,700 restaurants in the U.S. and abroad, has been exploring a possible sale, among other options.

Fully integrated campaign
The new campaign will be fully integrated, with radio, outdoor, online and store-merchandising components. Mr. Holtcamp said menu boards and point-of-sale merchandising all will be changed to reflect the new look and feel. While Saatchi X, the network's shopper-marketing unit, will remain Wendy's in-store-marketing partner, Kirshenbaum will handle most of Wendy's advertising, including online and digital work, two executives close to the matter said.

Kirshenbaum Bond previously served Wendy's in an ancillary capacity, among other things tasked with the restaurant chain's ambitious breakfast rollout; the menu is being tested in about 1,000 stores. Mr. Holtcamp said Saatchi may get some of the breakfast work now that the primary national campaign has gone to Kirshenbaum.

"We are going to continue to partner with Wendy's and look forward to working with them in the future," a Saatchi spokeswoman said. "We continue to be on their roster." Other agency partners on Wendy's roster include Vidal Partners for Hispanic advertising duties and MediaVest, which handles Wendy's national media planning and buying.

Changes came quickly
The wholesale changes, while expected, came fast. Kirshenbaum Bond presented new ideas to Wendy's just five weeks ago, and the first new spot, which introduces the restaurant's premium fish-fillet sandwich, will break nationally on Feb. 4.

The new series of spots opens with an animated Wendy taking a bite out of a Wendy's burger, casting a fishing line to catch cod for Wendy's new fish sandwich and clutching a piggy bank to promote the chain's super-value menu, for example -- and the dialogue emphasizes fresh food and quality. Each spot is chock full of product shots and ends with a new tag.

"Wendy the icon has not been used in 30 years. ... We looked in the brand's attic of equity for things that have not been leveraged," said Jon Bond, co-chairman of Kirshenbaum Bond, which is owned by MDC Partners. "There is an honesty and a purity to Wendy," Mr. Bond said, and "Dave was not cool and hip, but yet he appealed to everyone, young people and old people."

"Authenticity appeals to everyone, instead of trying to be something that you're not," he said. "That's what this campaign is about."

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