Sonic Keeps Barkley on Agency Roster

Restaurant Chain Continues Search for National Creative, Media

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Independent agency Barkley and drive-in chain Sonic aren't totally calling it quits on their 17-year relationship after all.

Only earlier this month did the two announce they were breaking up due to Sonic's decision to launch a review of its more than $100 million marketing account. Now the duo have decided to work together, though in a much-reduced capacity. Barkley will keep a few portions of the business, namely assignments in field marketing, public relations and national cause branding campaign.

The bulk of the account -- national creative and media duties -- still remain in play. And Barkley still declines to participate in the review.

"We are reviewing pieces of the business, because it's important for the Sonic Drive-In brand to ensure we have the best possible roster of agency resources," Sonic Chief Marketing Officer Danielle Vona said in a statement. "We are pleased that Barkley will continue as an important part of that roster as we also review additional partners."

Asked to explain the reason for staying on as one of Sonic's agencies, Barkley CEO Jeff King said, "We looked at the many aspects of the business we handle for them. ... As I sat down with the client and we started talking about all the things we partner on, it made a lot of sense to still partner in several areas."

"The reason we declined to participate in the review is because we don't think that's the best use of our time," Mr. King said, noting "there are elements of the business that are not in review, things we do very well, that they are not going to review, and we're excited to continue as their partner in those areas."

Still, the loss of the large creative and media portions of Sonic's account are a blow for Barkley, and it's "still really too early to tell" to what degree staffing levels at the agency will be impacted.

Sonic in the first half of 2010 spent $64.5 million on advertising, according to Kantar Media. The company in 2009 spent $155.5 million, and $132.2 million in 2008.

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Contributing: Rupal Parekh

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