New York Fries dips into radio

Restaurant chain New York Fries is seeking to capitalize on the recent popularity of poutine in English Canada with its first-ever radio campaign, which features the voice of iconic Canadian actor Gordon Pinsent.


"Poutine has, over the last number of years, become one of the most popular foods in the country," New York Fries (NYF) president and founder Jay Gould tells MiC, noting that many upscale restaurants in Toronto have added inventive poutine offerings to the menu.


"We wanted to expand a little bit more into the meal category," he adds. "I think many people still think of New York Fries as a snack or as an add-on to a salad or a cheesburger. These are legitimate centre-of-plate meal offerings."


Over the past several months, the 26-year-old brand has began emphasizing poutine, which represents more than 50% of its sales, with new menu items such Butter Chicken and Braised Beef Poutines. It has also rebranded and redesigned 91 of its 150 locations as New York Fries Poutinerie. All stores will eventually be revamped to reflect the new look with the exception of NYF counters in movie theatres.


To get the word out, four "Poutine Perfected" radio ads were created by Toronto-based ad agency Juniper Park that will begin rolling out this week in 34 NYF markets serving poutine, including St. John's, Halifax, Moncton, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Victoria.


In lieu of radio ads in Quebec (Pinsent did not record French-language versions), media placement will take the form of mall posters and in-store materials. All stores serving the new items nationwide will receive promotional point-of-sale merchandise such as banners, screens and tray liners with the slogan, "Is it wrong to undress poutine with your eyes?" Media planning for the campaign was handled by Media Experts in Toronto.


The spots "Fashion Kitty" and "Bubble Bath" will rotate for two weeks beginning March 7, and then go off the air for two weeks before the campaign returns for two more weeks with "Unicorn" and "Space Life."


In each spot, Pinsent lists off each specialty poutine's primary ingredients before cheekily likening the dining experience to other "high-end" activities, such as soaking in a bubble bath or buying a pair of designer jeans for a kitten. This is the first time NYF has created radio ads. The goal is twofold: blitz the market to reach a broad audience and a put a humorous spin on the promotion with an iconic Canadian voice.


"We wanted the opportunity to tell a story that didn't just necessarily focus on the specific ingredients and didn't just sound like a recipe," says marketing manager Alyssa Berenstein. "We feel like these are so unique as food offerings that we wanted to be able to tell a story and romance it a little bit more."


The goal of the campaign is to broaden the chain's customer base and pique the interest of men and women in their mid-20s to mid-40s who grew up with the brand and consider it snack food.


"We're here to say, 'This is the real deal, it's real food and call it lunch,'" says Gould.