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Los Angeles agency Mendelsohn/

Zien is getting a lot of mileage out of an amusing ad campaign launched 21/2 years ago that is credited with helping to turn around the Carl's Jr. fast-food chain.

The ads feature big, juicy, drippy burgers, the kind smaller chains are touting to draw away customers from industry giants like McDonald's and Burger King.

Checkers Drive-In Restaurants, based in Clearwater, Fla., used the TV spots-the Carl's Jr. logo on bags and cups was electronically altered to say Checkers-for three months this summer. Rally's Hamburgers, Louisville, Ky., used them briefly last year, and Hardee's Food Systems, Rocky Mount, N.C., is using them now in Oklahoma City, where 47 Hardee's units are being converted to the Carl's Jr. brand.

The common thread is CKE Restaurants, Anaheim, Calif., parent of the 677-unit Carl's Jr. chain, new owner of Hardee's, and part-owner of Rally's and Checkers.

"The food shots are very good," said Donald Young III, senior director of marketing for Checkers. "Those commercials talk about taste very well. They talk about how this is a great tasting hamburger and this is a great tasting product."

Checkers, however, decided it wanted its own message and amicably split with Mendelsohn/Zien to look for a local agency where, with its $15 million budget, it could be a major account, Mr. Young said. Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami, won the account this summer.

Rally's, too, is seeking a new agency, after more than a year with Mendelsohn/Zien.

"We got world-class advertising for a fraction of the cost," said Evan Hughes, senior VP-chief administrative officer at Rally's. Now the chain wants ads of

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