Hooters in advertising push to thank loyal customers

LOS ANGELES - Hooters of America, the restaurant chain famous for its well-endowed T-shirt wearing waitresses, has launched a year-long advertising and PR initiative to celebrate its 20th anniversary.

"We have the most loyal customers in the world, and we want to use this opportunity to thank them for their patronage, and to welcome new friends in 2003," Mike McNeil, vice-president of marketing for Hooters, said.

Hooters is working with Washington, DC-based agency Powell Tate for media relations and some event planning, according to McNeil. Hooters developed a relationship with the firm in the mid-90s, when the chain was pressured to hire male servers. The agency helped craft the "Hooters March on Washington" and other tactics to protest.

The risque restaurant chain kicked off celebrations with PR events at last week's Super Bowl, including a pre-Bowl party with Hooters calendar girls.

The chain will also hold in-store "birthday parties" on the 20th of each month, and an April "Double Decade" promotion where a Hooters spokeswoman and a "Miss 20th Anniversary" will be chosen.

Other planned events include a July party in Las Vegas that incorporates the seventh annual Miss Hooters International contest. That pageant will be taped by VH1 and broadcast as a segment of the channel's All Access program as part of an advertising deal that includes commercials to run on the channel. The pageant will also be broadcast live in all of Hooters' 331 outlets.

Hooters is also in the process of planning launch events for Hooters Air, an airline that is expected to debut in March with limited service on the Eastern seaboard.

Last week, the first plane in the fleet, Hooters Air One, made an appearance at Delta TechOps Center in Atlanta. The company will activate the toll-free phone number 1-888-FLY-HOOT in the coming weeks.

McNeil said the company is considering a "city-by-city whistle-stop tour" with NASCAR driver Brett Bodine joining the Hooters Air staff to promote the new venture.

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