Client: Chik-Fil-A Inc. (Atlanta, GA)
PR Team: Cohn & Wolfe (Atlanta, GA)
Campaign: 'Vote Chikin. Itz Not Right Wing or Left'
Time Frame: July 3 -September 2, 2000
Budget: dollars 25,000.
The presidential elections have given rise to some unlikely candidates, but surely the most bizarre involved Chik-Fil-A. Using a collection of pantomime-like cows, the restaurant chain formed a political party called the Cow Preservation Party with a platform of promoting chicken consumption.
They then took their act to the White House.
Maintaining a pretense that the cows were real, Jerry Johnston, manager of Chik-Fil-A PR, insisted, 'They are a renegade group of bovines who are not employees of Chik-Fil-A or mascots.'
Cows have been the centerpiece of Chik-Fil-A's marketing since 1995.
'There's a kind of universal attractiveness and appeal that people feel toward cows,' Johnston says. 'This has helped us in all of our messaging,' he adds, pointing out, 'We had this campaign long before the CowParade hit New York.'
It was decided that expression of a clear stance on the cow party's issues would strengthen the campaign, while presenting an opportunity to highlight the misspelling component that has been a successful trademark of the cows. The slogan, 'Vote Chikin. Itz Not Right Wing or Left,' was displayed to persuade the public to 'Eat More Chikin.' The platform included planks: 'Life, Libertee and the Persoot of Chikin' and 'Cow Tipping - A Federal Offense.'
'The cows decided Washington, DC would be the best venue to launch their campaign,' relates Charlie Farley, vice chairman, chief creative officer at Cohn & Wolfe, the agency of record for Chik-Fil-A in Atlanta.
Building up to the introduction of the Cow Preservation Party, restaurants were festooned with red-white-and-blue bunting and hosted visits from the cows. Some sponsored voter-registration drives.
The launch centered on a photo in front of the U.S. Capitol, Supreme Court and the White House. 'Imagine pulling up at the secret service guard post in front of the White House, and cows stepping out of the car, with tourists snapping pictures,' Johnston recalls. 'Some of the White House press corps came over.'
The slogan, platform and photos were assembled in a press kit that also included a release announcing the new party, a Bovine Election Poll Report, a letter to the press providing background, a bumper sticker and a button reading: Vote Chikin in 2000.
Cohn & Wolfe mailed the kit in August - between the Republican and Democratic conventions - to reporters at major dailies, local TV and radio in markets where restaurants are located, political writers at Business Week, Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher and national radio programs.
Also targeted were restaurant trades and marketing publications, such as Ad Week and Brand Week. The major dailies, including USA Today, had been primed for the kit in June when they were sent a ballot box announcing the summer campaign.
In follow-ups, Cohn & Wolfe suggested political reporters run an amusing cow tale related to, but off the well-shod trail, of the election beat.
'We pitched it as a break because they'd been covering so much (serious stuff) with the convention,' says Matt Serra, Cohn & Wolfe account executive.
The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a piece on the front page of the business section, which included two pictures from the DC shoot. The Orlando Sentinel featured a Chik-Fil-A cow being treated like any other candidate at a meet-and-greet forum for local politicians. A short item ran in the business section of The Atlanta Constitution, and Newsweek has expressed interest in an article.
Brandweek and Food Service Central ran news pieces. Marketing and restaurant trades showed the most interest, Serra admits. No political reporters wrote a story, but one of the Senate Web pages featured a photo of the cows at the White House.
The cows continue down the campaign trail. 'We're waiting to see if we're going to be included in the debates,' Farley says.