Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Rise of Lil Chef

Oh no, you're thinking, we've reached that point with Round Seventeen wherein Rich pulls out ads from the past that never went anywhere.

Well, no.

And, yes.

I had lunch last week with my old Chiat partner, John Shirley. We met at Playa Del Rey's only Chinese restaurant. I'm not sure the place has a name. I'm not even sure it deserves one. The food isn't very good. But the portions are outstanding. And the Kung Pao Chicken is prepared with lots of those dried fiery hot red peppers I'm told you're not supposed to eat.

John was already sitting in the booth when I got there. He sprung a little surprise on me. A 150 page deck that we had done for the Hardee's pitch back in 2001. I'm gonna assume the statute of limitations has run out on me sharing some of the ideas.

Besides, upper management at Chiat didn't love the ideas then, I'm sure they don't have much use for them now.

In any case, our plan was to bring back Lil Chef. He was the Hardee's spokesman in the early 1960's and we were always fond of tapping into old brand DNA. It had built-in authenticity.

We were also very fond of Jack from the Jack in the Box campaign and knew that a founder strategy for fast food was a solid approach.

Lil Chef was different in that, at least in our incarnation, he was very much the reluctant spokesperson. He had retired a long time ago and was content to rest his 7 foot plastic body (think Bob's Big Boy), sit by the pool and nurse highballs of Kentucky bourbon.

That's right, we wanted Lil Chef to be a curmudgeonly old drunk. The first ever on national TV.

He wasn't interested in toy giveaways, in-store playgrounds or any of the nonsense associated with other fast food joints. Lil Chef was about putting out great, homemade food.

He wasn't always nice about it.
Or diplomatic.
Or even sober.

As John and I paged through the deck we found some really funny spots. Clever ways to jam in the obligatory food porn. Even some internal employee retention work that would have given the kids that worked at Hardee's a reason to smile and be happy they were on Lil Chef's team.

You know, besides the promise of getting at some of his bourbon stash.

The poorly scanned pictured above is just one sample. By the way, before the planners and account people got hold of it, it said "damn" not "darn."

If we did the ad today it would say, "Too fuckin' early!"

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