The Corporate Pitch
Frank Perdue obituary
The New York Times, April 2, 2005
Frank Perdue was the first of the CEO media celebs who went on television hawking their wares.
Humor is dangerous in advertising. But when Frank Perdue looked directly at you and said, "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken," the viewer had to smile and feel good about this homely man who was truly believable.
Perdue was never comfortable in front of the camera. In a 2003 interview with Julie Sloane of Fortune he said, "Filming those ads never got easier for me. I never liked to do them, but they worked--after two years of radio advertising, our sales went from $50 million to $80 million. After one year of the TV commercials, 51% of New Yorkers recognized the Perdue label. I ultimately did 156 different ads in all."
The result of Perdue's amazing performance--both as CEO and spokesman--was that he changed an ordinary commodity into a nationally recognized brand. With his hard-driving management and quirky TV persona, Perdue took the company from annual sales of $56 million in 1970 to become a $2.8 billion giant with 20,000 associates and 7,500 independent farm families that produce 48 million pounds of chicken and 4 million pounds of turkey a week.
Perdue will be remembered for his obvious passion for excellence and his long-time presence in American living rooms with such lines as:
My chickens eat better than you do. A chicken is what it eats. If you want to start eating as good as my chickens, take a tip from me--eat my chickens.
Freeze my chickens? I'd rather eat beef!
Following in Perdue's Footsteps
Lee Iacocca was one of the handful of CEO media stars that followed Perdue's lead. Others included:
* Orville Redenbacher of popcorn fame
- Betty Lehnus
- Carly Fiorina
- Colin Wheildon
- David Oreck
- Edward I. Koch
- Edward Whitehead
- Frank Perdue
- Fred Smith
- Harlan Sanders
- Howard Hughes
- Julie Sloane
- Lee Iacocca
- Leonardo di Caprio
- Martha Stewart
- Ogilvy Mather
- Richard Branson
- Richard Thalheimer
- Rosabeth Kanter
- Victor Kiam