Dunkin’ Donuts Retires an Icon, Begins Work on New Ad Strategy

BOSTON-Dunkin’ Donuts has retired its famous pitchman of 15 years and is now plotting a fresh approach.
Fred the Baker, a.k.a. 73-year-old actor Michael Vale, last week publicly revealed his decision. The announcement followed a parade staged by Dunkin’ Donuts and its recently hired public relations agency, Cone Communications in Boston.
Vale, crowned “Dunkin’ Donuts’ Diplomat,” will continue to work for the company in a public relations capacity and in support of charitable causes. “Wherever you find a doughnut, I won’t be far behind,” Vale promised, to the laughter of the crowd.
Asked how the company plans to build on its success with Fred, Dunkin’ Donuts retail concepts officer Will Kussell admitted, “It’s always a challenge. Michael will continue to act as the company’s ambassador in a public relations capacity, but we felt it was the right time [to retire Fred] because business has never been better.” Same-store sales were up 10 percent last year, he said.
A new campaign, to break withing the next 30-45 days, will “turn the camera around,” according to Dunkin’ Donuts vice president of marketing Eddie Binder, and show what the brand means to customers.
Binder added that it “wouldn’t be implausible for Fred to make a cameo appearance in future commercials.”
Two 30-second TV spots created by Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG in New York and commemorating Fred’s decision made their debut on a large screen set up in Boston’s Copley Square.
One ad, titled “Press Conference,” announces the retirement and the company’s plan to give out free doughnuts at Dunkin’ Donuts stores nationwide today.
Another spot, titled “Tribute,” features the same celebrities from earlier ads showing Fred seeking advice on whether he should retire. In the new execution, which began airing last week, Mary Lou Retton, Bob Dole and Sugar Ray Leonard wish Fred a happy retirement. The spot is scheduled to run through the end of this week.
Randolph, Mass.-based Dunkin’ Donuts, a unit of Allied Domecq, has more than 4,700 locations throughout the U.S. and in 35 countries.