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Arby’s Seeks to Drop Fast-Food Image in New Ad Campaign

Arby’s Restaurant Group Inc. is introducing a new advertising campaign aimed at drawing customers away from the Subway sandwich chain and convincing diners it is a destination for fresh food.

The campaign, which debuted last night with a spot featuring celebrity private investigator Bo Dietl, attempts to shed Arby’s image as a fast-food joint and get consumers to associate it with freshness by pointing out that Arby’s slices its meat in its stores.

“We see ourselves as a sandwich shop, but we don’t always get credit for that from the consumer,” said Andrew Keller, chief executive officer at Crispin Porter & Bogusky, the agency behind the ad.

The campaign is the latest attempt by Arby’s, once owned by Wendy’s Co., to reinvent its almost 50 year-old brand. Arby’s in 2001 introduced the Market Fresh line of sandwiches and salads, which are still part of the menu. The company’s last rebranding was in February 2011 with its “Good Mood Food” campaign.

The restaurant chain is now owned by Atlanta-based private-equity firm Roark Capital Group, which bought about 82 percent of the company from Wendy’s in a deal valued at $430 million in July 2011.

The campaign targets the 20 percent of Arby’s customers who account for two-thirds of its total transactions, Chief Marketing Officer Russ Klein said. Those customers dine out about 50 times a month, yet Arby’s makes up only six of those visits, Klein said in an interview.

New Products

Arby’s also plans to add as many as 12 new products to keep their attention, Klein said. The chain introduced a hot turkey sandwich this month and has plans for a peppermint milk shake, a molten lava cake and miniature sandwiches.

“Ninety percent of their out-of-home food decisions represent an opportunity for us to garner an extra visit from them because of the expanded variety,” he said.

The brand overhaul also will include a new logo, packaging and menu boards that will be in place by February. The company is planning a $12 million renovation of company-owned restaurants that will start in test markets at the end of the year. The company won’t require franchisees to renovate unless they already were planning to remodel, Klein said.

Arby’s has more than 3,500 restaurants globally while Subway has 34,000. Arby’s was ranked as the second-worst sandwich chain out of 13 in a survey with more than 5,000 responses published by Restaurant News in August. Subway ranked seventh.

Arby’s decor, menus and service will need to be made over if the chain is going to attract loyal new customers, said Tim Calkins, a professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, Illinois.

“You don’t want to start bringing in lots of people until the store experience is going to delight them,” Calkins said in an interview. “The worst thing you could do is start bringing in lots of people into Arby’s and have them say this is exactly the Arby’s I used to know.”

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