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Golden Corral shifts to real life in ‘warm’ TV spots

Golden Corral shifts to real life in ‘warm’ TV spots – Marketing

Gregg Cebrzynski

RALEIGH, N.C. — Buffet chain Golden Corral retired “Frying Pan Man” after a three-year run in favor of a TV campaign in which no one gets bopped on the head and the ideas of family and friendship are emphasized.

The $15 million campaign broke last month in more than 40 spot markets, and the company expects to run it through December. The Richards Group of Dallas created five TV spots for the 475-unit chain under the new theme “Everyone deserves a good meal,” targeting consumers 25 to 54 years old and families.

The spots are humorous and warm in tone, significantly different from the “Frying Pan Man” commercials, in which the animated character smacked people on the head with a skillet to get them thinking about eating at the chain, company officials said.

“They’re radically different,” Bob McDevitt, senior vice president of marketing and franchise operations, said of the spots. “We developed Frying Pan Man in an era when we were looking for an icon. Frying Pan Man began to outlast the era it was created in.” The character did help Golden Corral extend its sales growth into a 12th consecutive year. The chain expected to end fiscal 2003 with $1.35 billion in systemwide sales, up from $1.16 billion in 2002.

Consumer attitudes, however, have changed during the last three years, McDevitt said. Consumers now feel a need to re-establish relationships with one another, and because of that shift in values, the new campaign puts “more focus on family and friends and togetherness,” McDevitt said.

Each of the 30-second spots showcases Golden Corral’s menu variety and draws on “real-life situations” to convey the message that the challenges of everyday living can be eased with a meal at the restaurant, according to Rob Baker, group creative director at The Richards Group.

In one spot a mischievous puppy bites and chews on household items before trotting into the backyard. The camera cuts to a baffled woman who is in the kitchen and asks, “Where are my keys?” The scene shifts to the yard, where a car is parked in the background. As a boy pokes the puppy’s stomach, the chirping sound of a car alarm goes on and off. “Dog owners. They deserve a good meal,” a voice-over says.

In a spot called “Front Tooth” a dad maneuvers around an obstacle course of toys and bumps into a door as he’s attempting to slip a quarter under the pillow of his sleeping son. A voice-over says, “Tooth fairies. They deserve a good meal.”

Another spot shows a young man who changes a flat tire for an attractive woman, only to find he’s locked his keys in his own car. Two others depict an overworked mom.

The goal was to “give the viewer something to relate to,” Baker said. “The situations we came up with are rooted in real life. We felt like we needed to stay fresh and current with the advertising.”

The new tag was written as a positioning statement before the ads were shot, Baker said, and it was tested in focus groups “to make sure it was resonating with people.”

McDevitt said the chain intentionally avoided using the word “great” in the tag because the word is overused in advertising.

“A good meal means more than good food,” he said. “It’s the total experience. It talks to those we appeal to, a very wide audience.”

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