Campbell-Ewald Scores Buffalo Wild Wings' Local Media Business

Incumbent 22 Squared Will Retain Creative, National Media-Planning Duties

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Buffalo Wild Wings, a New York-style chicken chain and sports bar, has selected Campbell-Ewald to handle its local media-planning business, following a review. The agency will also set up an advertising cooperative for the chain's franchisees.
Buffalo Wild Wings, a New York-style chicken chain and sports bar, has expanded rapidly in recent years, for a total of 550 restaurants in 38 states.
Buffalo Wild Wings, a New York-style chicken chain and sports bar, has expanded rapidly in recent years, for a total of 550 restaurants in 38 states.

The incumbent agency, 22 Squared, Atlanta, will continue to control creative and national media-planning. Campbell-Ewald beat out Colle & McVoy, Minneapolis and Stern, Cleveland. The size of the account wasn't disclosed. Pile & Co. conducted the review.

"We are delighted to add our local marketing expertise to a thriving, uniquely American brand," Campbell-Ewald Chairman Tony Hopp said in a release. "Buffalo Wild Wings has created a unique niche in the casual dining category and has demonstrated an ability to achieve very ambitious growth objectives despite the tough economic environment."

Besting counterparts
The Minneapolis-based chain is certainly besting its casual-dining counterparts. Third-quarter same-store sales were up 7% at company-owned restaurants and up 2% at franchised locations. Over the same period Applebee's comparable sales fell 3% and Cheesecake Factory was down 5%.

Campbell-Ewald seems like a logical choice for local media-planning and creating a cooperative. The agency has built such associations for Chevrolet and Farmer's Insurance.

"As we move forward and determine ways to add value and presence in the market, it may make some sense to add franchisee marketing investments, and along with corporate investments to really ensure one voice in the marketplace and really maximize their resources," said Craig Conrad, senior VP-director of marketing and account development at the Interpublic Group of Cos. agency, based in Warren, Mich. The cooperative program will start with a test before being rolled out across the entire system.

Expanding rapidly
According to TNS Media Intelligence, the chain spent about $25 million in measured media during 2007, and spent $17 million through August of this year. The chain has expanded rapidly in recent years, for a total of 550 restaurants in 38 states.

Mr. Conrad declined to speculate on whether the agency shift signifies an increase in ad spending on the way. "Having just won the business, we certainly hope so," said Mr. Conrad, adding that the marketer has been growing "dramatically" and "they have no plans to slow down."

During Buffalo Wild Wings' third-quarter earnings call, however, CEO Sally Smith said fourth-quarter media spending would be up 16% over the previous year, and the company will "continue to air during high-profile sports programming on ABC, CBS and Fox and during late-night programming."

Will rely on sports
"In addition, you'll see us on ESPN and on the Big Ten Network as their exclusive halftime football show sponsor," Ms. Smith said. "National and local radio spots will run throughout the quarter, and we will support local fall and winter sports teams in completing our community involvement through the holiday season."

As a chain of sports bars, the marketer relies heavily on athletic events to drive traffic and sales.

Buffalo Wild Wings spokeswoman Laura Rutten described Campbell-Ewald as a "resource that will be offered to our system, for markets that would like to work together."

The new-business win is a bright spot for Campbell-Ewald, which has lost several major accounts in the last few years. The agency, which represents General Motors and Chevrolet, has lost Farmer's Insurance and Michelin.* Last year, Campbell-Ewald resigned Bissell, unsuccessfully defended its National City account and lost GM's AC Delco account in a consolidation. The agency is also defending its account for the U.S. Navy. In the meantime, it has picked up U.S. Mint, Olympic Paint and Carhartt.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said C-E has lost the Popeye's account. The shop took part in a review, but was not the incumbent.
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