Chick-fil-A Pulls Beef DM Ads

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Chick-fil-A, the Atlanta-based restaurant chain, pulled all of the advertising in its winter campaign that mentions the word "beef" to avoid appearing insensitive to concerns about the first U.S. case of mad cow disease, which was announced Dec. 23.


The chain's cow campaign, now in its ninth year, features cows holding signs that say "Eat Mor Chikin." The company had planned to start a new round of in-store advertising and drop a direct mail campaign the week of Jan. 5 to residents that referenced the word beef, but told its franchisees to pull these ads.


"It's not the intention of Chick-fil-A to make light of or take advantage of any serious food, health or safety issues," Chick-fil-A spokesman Jerry Johnston said. "We are voluntarily withdrawing or delaying our advertising. We don't want people to perceive that we are taking advantage of what is happening in any way."


Chick-fil-A has not decided whether it will run the ads at a later date or eliminate them, Johnston said, but the company is monitoring the situation.


"Developments are occurring every day, so at this point it is impossible to put a time frame or date as to whether or not we will run this campaign in the future," he said.


The mail pieces -- which include time-sensitive coupons with an expiration date -- may go to waste. But, Johnston said, "hypothetically, we could give this campaign a green light next week [the week of Jan. 12], which means that we could use them. Or it might be three months before we [decide to run the campaign], which means we may have to make other plans. It's hard to say."


The mail pieces would have gone to customers around the country, though Johnston didn't have the exact statistics.


"It would have been pretty extensive," he said. Chick-fil-A has more than 1,100 locations in 37 states.


The company also will examine current advertising, including a billboard on display in Atlanta in which a cow tries to hypnotize motorists to eat chicken.


"We feel that if customers perceive something the wrong way, we will take appropriate steps to simply change the message," said Johnston, who noted that the company planned to change this billboard anyway before the mad cow case.


Chick-fil-A, however, told operators to continue to offer its 2004 cow superheroes calendar, which is paired with coupons and costs $5. The calendar is available while supplies last at participating Chick-fil-A restaurants or online. A campaign promoting the calendar began in December. Commercials promoting the calendar are running and can be viewed on the company's Web site, www.chickfila.com. The company printed 2.5 million of these calendars this year.


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