The campaign, created by New York agency Saatchi & Saatchi, was born after ad researchers found that nearly every consumer they interviewed could doodle the image of the little girl with upturned pigtails in the Wendy's logo. The logo was created in 1969 for the opening of the first restaurant, and the image was based on a photo of the chain's namesake, Thomas' daughter Wendy, at age 8.
The real Wendy had no comment on the goofy ads aimed at the YouTube generation, but one older consumer turned off by the wig is her mother, Lorraine Thomas.
"I don't like it," she said in a phone interview. "I think it's idiotic, and it's the worst thing I've ever seen. I think it's too off-the-wall."
The wig will be hard to miss during fall TV premieres, with ads to air on shows including Survivor on CBS, Family Guy on Fox and CW's Smallville.
The webcampaign starts the first week of October at hotjuicyburger.com. Visitors can upload images and record a "hot and juicy" chant. Entries may be picked to be featured in Wendy's banner ads on other sites.
Rowden's problem is to try to keep the momentum but avoid overkill. "Part of the plan is to manage it rather than do too much too soon."
In seven ads so far, a range of characters have worn the wig — from a Will Ferrell-type in the woods to a black female executive — and none has done it twice.
"We didn't want another brand mascot," says Tony Granger, chief creative officer for Saatchi. "If you look at the industry, there's a clown, a creepy king, a colonel. The wig is the 'voice of enlightenment' on different people: black, white, male, female, young and old."
Store manager Stacy Alarid in Morris, Ill., likes the ads and said the picture-taking placard is popular. "Customers take their pictures and say, 'Look at me.' And that creates excitement for us in the restaurant."
Meanwhile, admakers will keep looking for the right "hair care" product to keep the wig looking fresh.
"After an hour, it starts to fray," says Jan Jacobs, executive creative director for Saatchi. "It's a big drama trying to keep it tidy."
NEW AND NOTABLE
Heel to tow? To pump up interest in its MegaShop shoe department, off-price retailer Marshalls has taken to the streets in a motorized red stiletto pump with a nearly 8-foot heel. The three-wheeled shoemobile was in Washington, D.C., last week where reps snapped photos of people with the patent leather shoe. The photos are posted at www.Marshallsonline.com/megashoe.asp for them to retrieve and e-mail to friends.
The fancy footwear makes tracks next in cities including Philadelphia, Dallas and Houston. While the shoe will be toe-d, err, towed, between cities by a Ford Expedition Max, it's no loafer: The pump, with a 5-speed gearbox and top speed of 60 mph, will rack up 30 to 50 miles a day under its own power in each city.
Show me the cookie. On TNT's The Closer, Kyra Sedgwick plays a tough-cookie interrogator who gets criminals to crumble. And with some characters (especially Sedgwick's) sweet on sweets, it's no surprise cookie maker Keebler signed up for ad time — and for product placement in the show.