Elvis fans all shook up over New York Fries

Retailers' efforts to create a more mall-friendly execution for the OOH phase of its provocative 'Real Fries' campaign offends some Elvis fans.

New York Fries (NYF) is taking on the King, and infuriating some of his loyal followers in phase two of the ‘Real Fries in a Fake World’ campaign, launched this month in print and OOH. An Elvis execution that features an impersonator – hair gelled, pantsuit bedazzled, mouth crooked – was designed for national rollout by Media Experts in the form of mall posters, community newspapers, magazines, transit shelter ads and subway station posters.

Elvis fan club members from around the world voiced complaints to NYF, headquartered in Toronto, after an ad appeared in the Regina Sun Community News, which serves the hometown of the president of the I’ll Remember You Elvis fan club. ‘The controversy was that we were touching something sacred,’ says Alyssa Berenstein, marketing manager for New York Fries. ‘We were infringing on the boundaries acceptable to them.’

Ironically, Elvis and another creative called Wrestler (both developed by Toronto-based AOR Zig), were intended to be less offensive than a previous execution in order for NYF to get media closer to its comfort zone – the food court. ‘We really wanted to be in malls but we knew that our most famous execution, which was our Busty execution of the breast-enhanced woman – she wouldn’t fly. Nobody would approve for her to be in the mall, and that’s fine because we never intended her to be around children,’ Berenstein tells MiC.

Overall, reaction to Elvis is mixed – it was voted the favourite among 60% of visitors to the NYF website, and one fan from Timmins even asked for a copy of the poster to add to his collection of memorabilia. ‘We’re really embracing all feedback,’ says Berenstein, and the campaign will continue to run through May.

The campaign initially launched last summer to inform moms about NYF’s use of real potatoes. Busty, Toupee and Cougar, an apparent botox user whose favourite colour is leopard print, appeared in magazines targeting the female 25-to-49 demographic. The campaign was considered successful and NYF had an 8% increase over 2007′s same-store sales.

While phase two expands into OOH and reaches a wider demographic, it continues to target women with Elvis and Wrestler appearing in the April and May editions of Elle Canada, Canadian Living, and Coupe de Pouce in French, as well as Allure, Cookie and Glamour.