At first glance you might think the main character in Wendy’s new TV campaign is pretending to be Pippi Longstocking, but he’s not. He’s pretending to be Wendy, the namesake of the restaurant chain. That’s why he’s wearing a red wig with long pigtails. The resemblance is remarkable, if Wendy looks like a man wearing a red wig.
The character debuted in a TV spot in which people are kicking trees in unison. It’s a metaphor for people being programmed like robots to eat burgers that once were frozen.
But Mr. Pigtails won’t have any of it. What he wants is a burger that’s fresh, never frozen. He wants a hot, juicy burger, and he gets all the tree kickers to chant “hot, juicy burger” before he leads them to the nearest Wendy’s.
I was confused by the spot, and other ad critics hated it, but apparently consumers loved it.
It was second-most-liked new restaurant ad that broke during the second quarter, according to IAG Research, a New York-based firm that measures ad effectiveness by ranking new ads according to “most liked” and “most recalled.”
The Wendy’s spot received a rating of 150 on the likability index. Based on IAG’s methodology for calculating likability, the rating means the ad was 50 percent better liked than the average new restaurant ad during the quarter.
IAG defines likability as the percentage of viewers who say they like an ad “a lot.”
A spot for CiCi’s Pizza was the most-liked new restaurant ad. It shows a woman at the chain’s all-you-can-eat buffet while a voice-over describes the “cheesy wonderland of deliciosity” that awaits customers, except for the woman. “Your indulgence: the salad bar,” the voice-over says, “for you are a delicate flower.”
But she keeps piling food on her plate until the voice-over remarks, “Wow, that’s my kind of flower.”
The humor is so-so but the selling proposition is strong, depicting how the food on the buffet is so appetizing that even a salad hound would cave in and indulge in pizza and dessert.
The spot for Red Lobster was the only ad to make both the most-liked and most-recalled lists during the second quarter. The ad promoted Maine lobster tails and grilled citrus-rum sea scallops.
Subway ranked first, second and fourth in recall, which is defined as the percentage of viewers who can recall within 24 hours the brand of any ad they were exposed to while watching TV during prime time, late night and weekend sports telecasts.
Each Subway spot featured Jared Fogle and a sports star talking about how Subway sandwiches have less fat than a Big Mac, Whopper or McDonald’s snack wrap. Fogle appears with Philadelphia Phillies slugger Ryan Howard in the most recalled spot, with New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush in the second most recalled spot, and with NASCAR driver Tony Stewart in the fourth most-recalled spot.
An ad that ranks high in recall, of course, won’t necessarily be a likeable one. Viewers remember ads they hate as well as the ones they like.
Within the past few weeks Wendy’s broke a second spot featuring Mr. Pigtails. This time, hundreds of people rush toward a gigantic hole in the ground and jump in until Mr. P. persuades some of them to stop the madness and head to Wendy’s.
I bet viewers are just eating it up.