Chipotle Hungry For New Ad Agency

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A Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant in Pittsburgh, PA.
A Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant in Pittsburgh, PA. Credit: iStock
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Chipotle is considering whether to bring on a new agency to help with marketing plans for 2017, the company confirmed.

The once high-flying fast-casual chain said it is working with Pile and Company to explore the possibility of hiring a new agency.

GSD&M, which continues to work with Chipotle, is among those under consideration for future assignments, spokesman Chris Arnold said in a statement.

Chipotle is still trying to regain its momentum after a series of issues including reports of E. coli and other food concerns began to spread last year. The company has not typically spent too much on marketing but over the past several months has significantly increased its marketing and promotions as it tries to woo diners back. It gave away free food after closing restaurants for an all-staff meeting in February. Its three-month long Chiptopia loyalty program ended in September. Other efforts have included online videos and a variety of buy one, get one offers.

Its current campaign, "Ingredients Reign," focuses on ingredients and was handled by GSD&M with animation studio HouseSpecial.

Late last month, Chipotle said that it was considering running the "Ingredients Reign" campaign on TV, which would mark a change of course for Chipotle, which up until now has stayed away from TV commercials. The campaign currently includes animated stop-motion short films, online, outdoor, and radio spots.

Before Chipotle's food issues became national headlines, Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle's chief creative and development officer, said the chain was focused on telling its brand story and was not planning to use TV spots as part of its strategy. During an October 2015 conference call, a Wall Street analyst asked Mr. Crumpacker about whether Chipotle would step up its marketing spending. Mr. Crumpacker responded that Chipotle was doing things such as increasing its focus on digital marketing.

"The problem with television, beyond the expense, is that it is really, really tailored toward 30-second spots, which really only deliver if you have some sort of a promotional or call-to-action message in them, which is a very slippery slope," Mr. Crumpacker said during the Oct. 2015 call.

Widespread reports of an E. coli outbreak tied to a small number of its restaurants began appearing less than two weeks later.

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