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Hardee's Looks to Ad Agency for New Image

O.C. BUSINESS PLUS

Fast food: Irvine-based Johnson/Ukropina is retained by the chain to handle broadcast and print campaigns.

December 03, 1999|GREG HERNANDEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The struggling Hardee's hamburger chain has hired Irvine-based Johnson/Ukropina Creative Marketing as its national advertising agency, overseeing a new media campaign to update Hardee's' image.

Johnson/Ukropina will handle print and broadcast advertising for Hardee's, which has an annual advertising budget of $100 million. The new ad campaign is scheduled to debut in March.

Johnson/Ukropina replaces Leap Partnership in Chicago, which had the Hardee's account for just over a year.

Johnson/Ukropina is no stranger to Hardee's parent, Anaheim-based CKE Restaurants Inc. The agency has handled in-store promotions and merchandising for CKE's Carl's Jr. chain the last six years. Partners Carolyn Johnson and Joyce Ukropina said Thursday that there have been "no discussions" about their company taking over Carl's Jr. advertising campaigns.

Since 1995, Carl's Jr. campaigns have been developed by Mendelsohn/Zien in Los Angeles. But some industry insiders have said that in light of slumping sales, the chain may have to reshape its campaign, which uses messy burgers, edgy humor and sexual innuendo to pitch burgers to fast food's core demographic, young males.

Mendelsohn/Zien's most recent Carl's Jr. television ad campaign for a spicy chicken sandwich ran last month.

Last month, CKE predicted a fourth straight quarter of lower-than-expected earnings, largely blaming the slow pace of converting the Hardee's chain to a new concept called Star Hardee's. Star Hardee's features an improved menu and service and combines Hardee's popular breakfast menu with the line of charbroiled hamburgers sold at Carl's Jr.

The chain's new ad agency said it plans to come up with a campaign that will reconnect Hardee's with the "hometown" customer.

"For many people, Hardee's was their first fast-food experience," Ukropina said. "Hardee's is still a great brand and they need to be educated on what has changed as well as what hasn't."

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