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Starred in More Than 200 TV Ads; Changed Food Marketing

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NEW YORK ( -- Legendary poultry pitchman Frank Perdue died yesterday after a brief illness at 84.

Mr. Perdue was one of the first company CEOs to stand in front of the camera to hawk his own products, and the tactic proved a huge success for the

Photo: AP
Frank Perdue changed the nature of poultry product marketing as well as TV ad practices.
one-time family egg company, Perdue Farms, which grew into a $1.2 billion branded chicken business. Mr. Perdue starred in more than 200 TV spots, usually while wearing a white lab coat and hat.

Ads began in 1971
Mr. Perdue, then chairman of the company his father founded in 1920, was persuaded to star in the company’s ads beginning in 1971 by executives at ad agency Scali McCabe Sloves. His folksy appeal, together with taglines such as “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken,” carried the brand’s advertising through 1991, when Mr. Perdue stepped down as chairman and began to appear in advertising alongside the new company chairman, his son Jim Perdue.

The elder Mr. Perdue continued to appear in “transition” ads until 1994, when his son finally took over the reigns.

Lee Garfinkel, who worked on the account for years while at Lowe Worldwide, in 2001 told Advertising Age, “We found that Frank could basically stand in front of the camera for 30 seconds and talk about chicken and be very engaging.” Quite a feat.

Changed a category
Mr. Perdue’s engaging nature helped buoy the once commodity chicken business into a major branded category.

“Mr. Perdue was clearly a pioneer for the industry and, in our opinion, one of the best food industry marketers of all time [because he found] a way to capture a premium price for a commodity,” Credit Suisse First Boston analyst Dave Nelson said.

Mr. Perdue is survived by his third wife, Mitzi Ayala Perdue, as well as four children, two stepchildren and two grandchildren.

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