Ad Track: Veteran Wendy's franchisee gets president's job

If you're finding it tough to keep track of Wendy's various ad campaigns — not to mention who's running the place — you've got company. But it may soon get a bit easier.

J. David Karam, a veteran Wendy's franchisee who led a failed effort to buy the company, was named president last week. Karam, 50, was picked "based on his passion for the brand," says Roland Smith, CEO of Triarc, which recently won the drawn-out bidding for Wendy's. Karam will replace Kerrii Anderson as president when the deal closes later this year.

Wendy's could use some of founder Dave Thomas' old passion. Perhaps that's why it's also bringing back Ken Calwell as chief marketing officer. Calwell, most recently marketing chief at Domino's Pizza, oversaw Wendy's rollout years ago of arguably its last big hit: Garden Sensation Salads. They were widely copied — then one-upped — by McDonald's and Burger King, which both added warm chicken toppings. Wendy's finally relented this summer and added warm chicken, too.

'Inappropriate' and proud of it

Gossip Girl, the CW's TV show about privileged prep school students, has received more than a mouthful of criticism for showing teen drug and alcohol use, as well as for its sexual content. Now, the network has turned those gripes into promotions for the show. New marketing uses racy images of the show's teen stars and plays up quotes from grown-up critics, such as "Mind-blowingly inappropriate" (taken from the website of advocacy group Parents Television Council), and "Every parent's nightmare" (from a 2007 column in the Boston Herald).

PTC spokeswomen Melissa Henson calls the ads a "sad" attempt to "appeal to a teen's rebelliousness."

CW marketing head Rick Haskins, who calls the show a "guilty pleasure," simply sees it as a clever way to let fans know the new season starts Sept. 1. "We're always trying to figure out different ways to reach our viewer," he says. "You always have to be provocative to stand out in the marketplace."

Slogans may be hazardous to health

A Salt Lake County, Utah, car passenger got a surprise last month when he mimicked famous Grey Poupon TV ads of the past. The passenger got the driver of another car to lower his window, then asked: "Excuse me, sir, do you have any Grey Poupon?" That driver — clearly no fan of the ads in which mustard is passed from one car to another — pulled out a handgun and said: "Here's your Grey Poupon, roll your #$*%@* windows up," according to police documents posted on TheSmokingGun.com. The Poupon fans took down the license number, and the gun-wielder was charged last week with aggravated assault.

The doctors are in

Dr Pepper has enlisted well-known "doctors" to promote drinking the beverage slowly so as to taste all "23 flavors." NBA great Julius Erving (aka Dr. J) and Kelsey Grammer (Dr. Frasier Crane on NBC's Frasier ) tout their soft-drink knowledge in TV ads and urge: "Trust me, I'm a doctor."

Perhaps Dr. Phil will be next …

Verizon dogged by critics

Verizon Wireless felt the bite of dog lovers over its new ad for the LG Dare phone. It showed a "daring" young man grabbing an LG Dare in a junkyard protected by pit bulls. The dogs snarl and charge at him, only to be held back by chains. Animal activists, including the ASPCA, PETA and The Humane Society, yelped about what they saw as violence toward dogs and called for a Verizon boycott.

It won't be clear until next quarter if consumers put the No. 2 wireless carrier in the doghouse, but for now, it's been giving Big Dog AT&T serious competition. Verizon recently reported that it gained a net 1.5 million new subscribers in the second quarter, vs. 1.3 million reported by No. 1 AT&T.

Barbasol: Your ad here

There was a time when shaving cream cans touted only what was inside. Two million Barbasol cans on shelves now promote Ford Motor's Mustang Challenge racing series.

Barbasol executives wouldn't say what Ford paid for the exposure. But David Arluck, president of Arluck Promotions, which inked the promo deal, says the cost for advertisers to appear on Barbasol cans is $2 to $4 per 1,000 consumer impressions and that each can gets about 100 impressions, including before and after purchase. By the Ad Team's math, that's makes the deal at least $400,000.

Next up for the Barbasol ad can? Arluck won't be specific but says he is talking to cellphone makers, tech firms and a restaurant chain specializing in breakfast.

Starbucks' hot topic

Starbucks may be having second thoughts about dumping its hot breakfast sandwiches. Without confirming or denying that, spokeswoman Lisa Passe says the sandwich debate — a burning issue on Starbucksgossip.com — may be addressed Wednesday during the company's quarterly earnings conference call.

CEO Howard Schultz announced in January that the sandwiches would disappear in the next year. But not only are they profitable, they've turned out to have some die-hard fans.

What's in a name? A lawsuit

Rapper 50 Cent (nee Curtis Jackson) wants $4 million from Taco Bell. He has sued the fast-food chain, charging it wrongly used his name and image in ads that offered him a deal to change his name — for a day — to 79 Cent, 89 Cent or 99 Cent. Taco Bell didn't return calls, but spokesman Rob Poetsch sent the Ad Team this statement: "We made a sincere, good faith offer to 50 Cent to donate $10,000 to the charity of his choice and proposed that he change his name to either 79, 89 or 99 Cent for one day by rapping his order at any Taco Bell. We would have been very pleased to make the $10,000 charitable donation."

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