Smart Bomb Creates Baja Fresh’s TV, Radio

LOS ANGELES Baja Fresh Mexican Grill said it has unveiled its first major advertising campaign in the company’s 13-year history.

The TV and radio campaign was created by Smart Bomb (formerly Robert Chandler & Partners), which was hired at the end of January. Baja Fresh has also worked with freelance creative director Ken Sakoda, said Gene Cameron, vice president of marketing for the client in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

The effort, which includes three 30-second television spots and a 60-second radio ad, introduces “Eat life up” as the tagline.

The TV ads, which were directed by Leslie Dektor of Dektor in Hollywood, Calif., are meant to resemble indie films that contain product placements, rather than traditional commercials, said Robert Chandler, CEO and creative director at Smart Bomb in Marina del Rey, Calif. “We feel it’s much more organic and natural, in the same way that the food is natural and not artificial,” Chandler said. “It’s more of an attitude than a list of attributes.”

One spot, which was set to air in Phoenix during the Academy Awards, shows a girl and a guy, who are friends, having lunch at Baja Fresh. The girl asks whether he got a girl’s phone number the previous night, and he says that he did, although the numbers are not in the correct order. He has to unscramble them, as sort of a test. At this point, the girl suggests that he lay off the veggie enchiladas and bulk up on the steak, so that he is up to the challenge.

Another spot, which began airing last week in Phoenix, shows a guy placing his order at the quick-casual dining chain while an attractive woman waits in line behind him. When the order girl asks if he would like mild or hot salsa, he says that he would like mild. But, feeling that his manhood is in question, he makes a point of telling the woman behind him that he gets hot sauce on the side from the salsa bar, and uses “plenty of it.”

The third execution has a young couple entering Baja Fresh. The man spots his mother at the counter. His girlfriend asks to meet her to gain some insight into his childhood. To avoid an embarrassing moment, he grabs his cell phone and suggests they do take-out.

Baja Fresh wants the campaign to attract new customers to its restaurants, Cameron said. He noted that the chain is looking for moderate double-digit sales increases.

Strategic Insight Media Partners in Marina del Rey handled media buying for the campaign. While spending was undisclosed, Cameron said it would be a one-year campaign “at very respectable weight levels.” He added: “We’re building the brand. It’s not promotions or a quick fix.”

Ads will be rolling out on a market-by-market basis, although the order of the other territories has not yet been determined, said Cameron. The campaign launched in Phoenix because 15 of the client’s 220 restaurants are in that city, he said. Baja Fresh aims to have 550 units by 2005.