Arby’s Sets Sandwich Line Push

Arby’s in October will launch a four-week, $17 million series of testimonial TV spots from Doner to tout the chain’s upscale Market Fresh sandwich line, its first major menu addition in a decade.

The creative effort continues Arby’s “Satisfy your adult tastes” theme and marks the chain’s first national advertising in 15 years. Up to four spots are being considered.

Filming is getting under way in suburban Los Angeles shopping areas. In the spots, consumers will be asked to taste a sandwich and then asked a question such as, “What would you think if we told you it’s from a fast-food restaurant?”

Scott Lipitt, executive vice president and group account director at the Southfield, Mich., agency, said the goal is to “deliver on a very audacious claim of changing the way people think of fast food.”

The media buy includes 15-20 cable TV networks, including the Discovery Channel, USA and ESPN.

“For a [fast-food] chain, we have a fairly upscale demographic,” said Bob Springer, vice president of media services for Arby’s Franchise Association.

Market Fresh sandwiches are made with sliced beef, ham, turkey or chicken and a spicy brown mustard and other trimmings on thick-sliced honey-wheat bread. The line rolled out in May with three weeks of ad support, also from Doner. Same-store comparable sales rose 3 percent in May and 5 percent in June, some of fast food’s best numbers, according to Restaurant Trends in Anaheim, Calif.

The sandwiches now account for an average 10-15 percent of store sales.

Introducing the line cost operators less than $2,000 per store to launch, versus the $15,000 or more typical of recent fast-food cooking system overhauls.

“Our operators have never had the kind of customer feedback or word-of-mouth they’re hearing about Market Fresh,” said Lloyd Fritzmeier, president of Arby’s Franchise Association.

The Triarc restaurant unit spent $80 million on media in 2000, per CMR, and is boosting the ad budget by 15 percent this year.

Doner has taken the testimonial approach for Arby’s before, including in spots two years ago that backed the chains 35th year in business. At the time, crooner Barry White was pitchman for the restaurants. Arby’s moved to its “grown up taste” positioning last year.