Originally created 12/02/05

Chick-fil-A milks cow campaign for all it's worth

Cows can really sell a chicken sandwich.

So says the "chief cow advocate" for Chick-fil-A's decadelong bovine marketing campaign.

Greg Ingram, the company's senior marketing manager, spent Thursday afternoon at The Clubhouse discussing the campaign with the Augusta Advertising Federation.

You know the concept. Cows tout chicken to save their own tender necks. Not known for their intelligence, the black and white beasts can be seen painting "Eat Mor Chikin" on billboards across the U.S.

The campaign started 10 years ago when the growing chicken-sandwich company decided it needed something unique to compete with the big boys of beef like McDonald's and Burger King, Mr. Ingram said.

"We had to do something out of the box. Something crazy," he said.

The idea came delivered to Mr. Ingram in an overnight package from Dallas-based ad agency The Richards Group. Inside sat a prototype for two 3-D fiberglass cows painting a billboard.

Store operators and customers love the cows, Mr. Ingram said. And in the past 11 years, Chick-fil-A has increased annual sales in the double digits. In 2004, sales reached more than $1.74 billion, the company reports. There are now 1,200 stores, with new ones added every year.

The key to the campaign is its simplicity, Mr. Ingram said. Conceived strictly for billboards initially, it has spread to television, print and even a series of cow calendars.

And the cows aren't going to pasture anytime soon, Mr. Ingram said.

Reach Tony Lombardo at (706) 823-3227 or tony.lombardo@augustachronicle.com.

Cow Tales

Although the "Eat Mor Chikin" campaign has boosted sales for Chick-fil-A, the cows have had their share of struggles.

- In 1997, teens pilfered one of the cows off a billboard in Chattanooga, Tenn. The teens' parents eventually forced a confession out of them and the cow was returned. The cownapping was great for publicity, a company official said.

- A suicidal cow caused controversy with a Chick-fil-A billboard. The ad featured a cow perched on a billboard ledge. The sign read, "Eat Chikin or I'll Jump." Suicide - not funny. The ad was pulled.

- While all the ads promote chicken, one bullied beef. "Friendz don't let friendz Eat Beef," the sign read. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association didn't like it, and the ad was pulled.

Source: Chick-fil-A


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