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Wendy’s Tries Flatbreads; CKE Fires its Agency

Filed under Advertising, Marketing, News, Test Market

[During the 12/14 quarterly earnings call, CKE CEO Andy Puzder said agency David & Goliath was fired because over time the company and agency’s “vision for the brand diverged materially.” He said he liked “Anthem” and “Miss Turkey” ads, but after that ads declined. Hamblor was not on his favorites list, apparently]
Wendy’s has tried chicken sandwiches, chicken tenders, chicken salads and chicken wraps, so it’s not surprising that in selected markets, including Kansas City, the chain is testing a line of Grilled Chicken Flatbread Sandwiches.

One of the four flatbread varieties has the Asiago Ranch flavors already familiar as a nationally available chicken sandwich. As a flatbread it’s priced at $4.49 alone or $6.49 as a sandwich/fries/beverage combo. That puts it at the high end of Wendy’s overall price scale, countering the value-pricing of the $2.99 W Cheeseburgers.

Two other varieties are Caprese (like the salad, with mozzarella and pesto) and Smokey Apple BBQ, both priced in Kansas City at $3.99 alone, $5.99 as a combo. The fourth is Smokey Honey Mustard at $3.79/ $5.79. Operators contacted say the sandwiches are being well received, even though they create somewhat of a glut of new menu items there, alongside the W and Dave’s Hot ‘n Juicy Cheeseburgers.

It’s not clear if the flatbreads will be part of the introduction of what Wendy’s calls its “Gold Chicken,” the upgraded chicken product the chain initially said it would introduce nationally by year-end but subsequently bumped back to the first quarter of next year.

Flatbreads have been a popular way to dress up QSR sandwiches at least since 2008, when Subway announced that consumers could order any of its sandwiches on flatbread. McDonald’s test marketed Chicken Flatbreads a year ago. Taco Bell, too, had adopted the trend: See its current Triple Steak Stack LTO and ongoing Chicken Flatbread line.

● “Is this some sort of underwear party?” That funny, deadpanned line is delivered by an antebellum Southern gentleman to a group of swimsuit-clad beach lovelies in Carl’s Jr.’s TV commercial for its Made-From-Scratch Biscuits. But Carl’s parent apparently laughed less than I did because it abruptly fired the ad agency on Friday.

Did "Hamblor, God of Hamburgers" cost David & Goliath the account?

Agency David & Goliath had only been working on the $100 million Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s account since January, when it replaced Mendelsohn Zien. Now D&G, too, has been shown the door by the impatient company, replaced immediately by digital agency of record 72andSunny.

“They are a great group of people, but we became concerned about the recent direction of the advertising and determined that we needed to make a change,” CKE Chief Marketing Officer Brad Haley said in a release, as reported by AdAge. Exactly what made it “concerned” isn’t clear. After all, this is a company that for years was with Mendelsohn Zien’s advertising featuring the likes of Kim Kardashian eating salad in her bath.

When D&G was hired, Haley said the small shop presented ideas that had “the edginess and risk-taking that we have become famous for over the years.” CKE—or Apollo Management, the private-equity firm that bought it last year—may believes that edginess has been lost. Or perhaps it wants no edginess at all.

David Angelo, chief creative officer for D&G, countered that, “We had an amazing run with CKE and helped them achieve their second-most-successful burger launch in the last decade, with the Turkey Burger. The Turkey Burger launch reversed Carl’s Jr.’s declining sales and substantially increased the positive momentum of Hardee’s sales.”

D&G’s tenure started strongly enough: It’s “Anthem” commercials declaring that at Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s “We believe in burgers. Big, fat, juice running down your arms burgers” were refreshingly sassy without being sophomoric. The agency introduced “Just the Way It Is” as the chains’ new tagline. Its ads for the Charbroiled Turkey Burgers featuring the real Miss Turkey were OK. The agency’s worst performance, in my opinion, were the embarrassing “Hamblor, God of Hamburgers” spots for the Steakhouse burgers. But the sheer goofiness of a guy making his own sneakers out of boxes in the commercial for Hardee’s Hand-Breaded Buffalo Chicken made me laugh. Maybe it isn’t moving enough chicken.

In September, CKE reported that blended same-store sales for the two chains were +4.1% through Q2 of its current fiscal year, compared with -2.7% a year ago. In this ruthless economy, even that level of improvement apparently wasn’t enough for David & Goliath to keep its job.

●  McDonald’s never has been accused of having “edgy” advertising. Instead, it excels at heart-warming commercials such as the one now airing in the UK. The spot from Leo Burnett features dozens of costumed Santas converging on McDonald’s by bicycle on a snowy night.

● Australia’s Hungry Jack’s (Burger King) announced via Twitter yesterday that it is removing Angus burgers from itys menu as of 12/6. That’s a big concession given the success rival McDonald’s has had with its Angus line. Hungry Jack’s tweeted, “This is a necessary move in order for us to continue to grow as a company and more importantly make way for more new menu items.” Having already pulled the popular, beet-topped Aussie Whopper, Hungry Jack’s had better be preparing some sure-fire winners.

10 Responses to Wendy’s Tries Flatbreads; CKE Fires its Agency

  1. Rick

    I heard Wendy’s radio spots for the Caprese and Smokey Apple BBQ flatbreads in Richmond, VA over the weekend as well. No mention of honey mustard or I would have pulled over.

  2. Hello

    I tried the smokey honey mustard today and it was awesome! I hope they stay on the menu!

  3. eric

    chicken caprise, dang good! best fast food sammich out there, almost not even fast foodish.

  4. suzanne

    your commercial with the ladies in the park……. one woman said she didn’t have to leave her car to get the flatbread……. and then she walks off the screen with her bicycle. just saying………


  6. Valerie Dann

    I do not care for and rarely ever eat at any fast food joint. However, I have changed that for Wendy’s Asiago Chicken Ranch Flatbread sandwich. When my daughter was recovering from surgery in Florida she requested one of those delicious sandwiches as soon as she was able to eat again. She insisted I try one and I was hooked. It wasn’t even like getting fast food!! The most disappointing thing about it is that when I returned home to Sierra Vista, AZ, I went to our Wendy’s and not only did they not have my new favorite sandwich, the girl didn’t even know what I was talking about. Very sad…finally find something I like from fast food and can’t get it now. Please fix it Wendy’s!! Thank you.

  7. Patricia

    Tried the honey mustard flat bread -AWESOME

  8. cathy clontz

    I tried the Chicken Flatbread with Smoky Honey Mustard Sauce tonight. I thought it was awesome. My 10 year old granddaughter loved it as well. she is a real picky eater too!

  9. adam

    I just tried the Smoky Honey Mustard chicken flatbread and it was pretty much the worst meal I’ve ever had for amount of money I spent. The sandwich is extremely tiny and half the bites had no chicken. They either need to price these at $1.00 or change them completely.

  10. cathy

    just wondering why one flatbread has bacon and the other doesnt. charged extra to add bacon to the smoky mustard flatbread. i have tried both and the only difference is the choice of sauce. like the flatbread sandwich though.