Ice-Cream Chain Switches Ad Focus

Dairy Queen will serve up a new marketing strategy along with fresh menu items in 2004 to spur sluggish sales and revamp its image.

For the first time in the chain’s 64-year history, it will make a major national ad buy, using a quarter of its $50 million-plus media budget. Eight TV spots, breaking next month via True Grey, a unit of New York-based Grey Worldwide, will focus on consumers and their cravings for DQ products.

Both moves aim to update the brand long known for its ice-cream treats, despite ringing up half its sales from burgers, salads and the like. DQ’s U.S. sales were flat at about $2.5 billion in ’02, according to Technomic in Chicago.

“The challenge is to modernize our brand … while remaining true to who we are,” said Mike Keller, evp, marketing, research and development at American Dairy Queen, a division of International Dairy Queen in Minneapolis.

The national buy, which will run on cable, is 300 percent greater than in 2003. International Dairy Queen spent about $50 million on media last year—nearly the same as in 2002, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

The creative is a departure from its campaign hatched last February, where ads focused on the food; one showed a man receiving a giant french fry after asking for a large order. The new, humorous work includes one spot that features a dad walking in on his daughter, who is caressing the poster of a pop star. The man finds his wife in another room doing the same to posters of DQ’s Crispy Chicken Salad. The tagline, “DQ. Something different,” remains.

The expanded effort is designed to express that DQ is a place to visit regularly, said Jonathan Rodgers, ecd at True Grey. “We wanted to make it an everyday experience,” he said.