Burger King is looking to court moms

After watching its bigger rival McDonald's Corp. try to woo mom, Burger King Corp. is launching a new marketing and promotional campaign meant to grab her attention.

“A large part of our customer base is parents with children,” said Russ Klein, president of global strategy, marketing and innovation. “As a parent, the challenge is always trying to get the kinds of things you want to, but have some dimension of fun.”

The centerpiece of the effort, Klein said, is a new kids meal featuring a four-ounce serving of Kraft macaroni and cheese, low-fat milk and the company's “Fresh Apple Fries,” which are uncooked apple slices shaped like french fries and served with low-fat caramel dipping sauce.

The meal went on sale Monday for $3.49 and will be a permanent fixture on Burger King's menu.

The launch will be followed by an in-restaurant merchandising and television ad campaign, with the first commercial airing next Monday. That spot will introduce “Little King,” meant to be the Burger King's son.

The company will be offering free samples of its apple fries through July in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and Houston. Burger King will also give away samples at Jonas Brothers concert tour sites. Burger King is an official sponsor of the group's “Burning Up Tour” and will be offering some free tickets to the concerts.

Klein declined to specify the value of the advertising and marketing effort, saying only that the company will spend millions “supporting this vehicle.”

Burger King certainly isn't the first fast-food restaurant to try to convince moms to listen to the pleas in the back seat.

McDonald's launched a public relations campaign targeted to mothers last year in a bid to neutralize criticism that the company's food is a contributor to childhood obesity.

The McDonald's approach included adding a bevy of healthier menu items to its menu meant to entice both kids and parents, including “Apple Dippers” – pre-cut slices of apples similar to the new Burger King version.

The chain also started a “mom's quality correspondence” campaign in which six mothers got a behind-the-scenes look at how the chain operates.

The moms write about their experience on the company's Web site.