Applebee's has selected independent shop Barkley as its new agency.
The marketer in early November said it was parting ways with MDC Partners' CP&B, which it said came as "part of broad plans to transform the marketing and advertising direction of the brand."
It wasn't immediately clear when a new campaign would launch, but the company said Barkley will be its new agency of record effective March 1. BPN remains its media agency.
"As we take the iconic Applebee's brand to new places, we're excited about the creative potential of the Applebee's-Barkley relationship," said Darin Dugan, Applebee's senior VP of marketing & culinary in a statement. "Barkley's track record of driving results in the restaurant category and contemporizing established brands makes the agency an ideal partner to support our new direction."
Applebee's U.S. systemwide same-store sales reversed course in the third quarter and declined 0.5% after five consecutive quarters of gains. "Make no mistake, this is unacceptable to us," Julia Stewart, chairman-CEO of DineEquity, the company that owns Applebee's and IHOP, said during an October conference call. "Simply put, we're going to change the story at Applebee's," she later said.
At that time, DineEquity lowered its sales expectations for the Applebee's chain, calling for 2015 sales to be flat to up 1%, down from a prior forecast of 1% to 3% growth.
Applebee's said that Barkley was one of a few agencies with which it had discussions, but noted that Barkley's Blacktop, an agency it acquired in 2010, had worked on menu design and other creative projects in recent years. The process was internally led.
"Applebee's invented the casual dining segment and has a unique and rich heritage," said Jeff King, CEO of Barkley in the statement. "We are thrilled about the opportunity to help a powerful brand tell a new story extremely well."
Applebee's spent $165.4 million in U.S. measured media last year, according to Kantar Media.
Contributing: Jessica Wohl