Checkers goes on the run

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Fast-food chain Checkers Drive-In Restaurants takes eating on the run to novel extremes in a new campaign that features people chowing down on fries and burgers while skateboarding, bowling, even riding on a trolley.

The campaign, which ignores the perils of choking, not to mention laws prohibiting eating on public transportation (Washing-ton, D.C., for one, gained notoriety after police there arrested a 12-year-old girl in October for eating French fries in the subway), touts Checkers as the answer for busy people with little time to eat. Identical spots for each brand were produced to run in their respective markets: Checkers along the Eastern Seaboard and Rally's in the Midwest.

The 60-second spot features people eating on the run, accompanied by a hip-hop style soundtrack with lyrics such as, "You gotta eat. We'll get you in. We'll get you out," and "Say you got ambition, it takes ammunition." The campaign, which breaks Jan. 10, is the debut effort of the Pittsburgh and Miami offices of Marc USA. The agency also created a 30-second version of the commercial; the campaign will air on TV in more than 25 markets in the Midwest and Southeast-Checkers' strongholds. Media spending is estimated at more than $10 million.

"We're trying not to lecture people, not to preach to them, not to tell them to slow down," said Ed Fine, Marc USA chief creative officer. Marc's research showed that people's lives are so hectic that they often do not make time to eat, added Mr. Fine. A campaign airing for Boston Chicken's Boston Market, for example, advocates that consumers slow down to enjoy a meal.

Unlike the general trend in fast food focusing on food as the hero, the new Checkers spots show the food itself only fleetingly. "This is not your typical bite and smile [fast food] advertising," said Richard Turer, VP-marketing, Checkers and Rally's. "We're not a place to take your kids and sit down for two hours while your kids play in the playground." Added Mr. Fine, "The last thing the world needed was another obvious, boring fast-food commercial, with 20 seconds of staring at a hamburger that just sits there."

The spots follow last year's edgy but unsuccessful effort from Crispin Porter Bogusky, Miami, which featured a curvaceous, animated "bad girl" character named Holly. That campaign was quickly pulled after consumers complained that the sexy character, who lived dangerously, was offensive.

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