Q-and-A: Behind the scenes of Whataburger's new ad campaign - SmartBrief

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Q-and-A: Behind the scenes of Whataburger’s new ad campaign

4 min read


Whataburger added four popular limited-time sandwiches to the permanent menu on Monday, a day before radio spots were set to break in the 700-plus restaurant chain’s first new ad campaign in nearly a decade. I spoke with Group Marketing Director Rich Scheffler about the new campaign, which was shot over a 17-day period in 20 Whataburger restaurants in Texas and Alabama, and why the quickservice chain switched from a popular spokesman to what it’s calling documentary-style ads, which will run in English and Spanish on radio, TV, billboards, print and online.

Why change the campaign now?

First of all, we’re doing this not because the campaign wasn’t successful; it was very successful, sales are strong and we’re continuing to show growth throughout the campaign. But our message was changing. We wanted to talk about our people, the pride they take in serving our customers, the food they prepare, [and we] felt the best way to tell that story was through the team members and our customers.

What will the new campaign bring that the old one didn’t?

We didn’t go into this campaign with any scripts when we went in to shoot. We had some themes we wanted to get, and we created lines of questions for our team members, general managers and customers. We’re using the lines of questions to talk to these real folks and tell these stories. That was the approach, we didn’t shut the restaurants down — kept them open so everything’s as it would normally be.

There’s the story of our team members talking about the ingredients that make up our burgers so we’ve got a lot of different team members that talk to different aspects of that, both for our Whataburgers as well as our chicken products. And we’re also talking a lot about breakfast. It’s the quality ingredients, but also a lot about the service that goes into the breakfast day part. Not just serving breakfast, but serving you breakfast, and the connections our team members have with our customers.

We talk to our customers about what’s special about Whataburger, and each spot will tell the unique story in different ways.

During the filming, did you hear any surprising stories?

We hear a lot of stories over the years. Being a brand that’s been around over 61 years, there’s always some pleasant surprises that can come up, some may be around service or the way customers order the products. There were some pleasant surprises, and some of them could come out in future commercials.

What will the online campaign look like?

Digital is not new for us, we’ve been part of it, but as the viewing habits are changing and people are consuming media differently, we’re really just adapting our planning and our elements to meet those needs. We’ll use Hulu, digital radio and there will be an online component and a social media component. We’ll definitely be editing some different variations because of the longer format, and the other good thing about the format is that it lets consumers choose what product they’d like to hear about.

Does the new campaign have a tagline?

No, we’re not using a tagline.  It tells the story itself, and after you have seen and experienced the message that’s being told, it doesn’t need one. It’s about Whataburger, and it didn’t feel right at the time to add a tagline.

Why did the old campaign work?

There were a few things. No. 1, we were consistent. Being in a campaign you feel is right, we didn’t try to change it up too much. We always featured the food, we tried to get a little bit of a smile but not be over the top. We tried to play off some real life experiences, and one of the most important parts was that whatever story we told on TV always mirrored the experience in the restaurant.

Do those qualities carry over into the new campaign?

Absolutely, even more so. It’s still about the food first and foremost, but our people are telling the story and making sure what we’re saying mirrors what happens in the restaurant. It’s certainly not a repositioning of our brand, and it’s not about making a change because of sales — our sales continue to be strong, it’s just a new way to tell our story. We felt that what we wanted to say was best told by our team members and our customers.

Image credit: Whataburger