Troubled Cliff Freeman Loses Bonefish Grill

Y&R Picks up Creative Account Without a Review

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Embattled New York shop Cliff Freeman & Partners has lost its Bonefish Grill account to Y&R, Chicago, executives familiar with the matter said. The shift comes after the restaurant chain, owned by OSI Partners, handed its creative account to Cliff Freeman a little over a year ago.

Bonefish Grill, like much of the casual-dining sector, has been plagued by a battered economy: Through the first nine months of 2008, average weekly sales volume at Bonefish restaurants was down 7.5%, according to OSI's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Representatives for the agencies or marketer could not be immediately reached. Y&R, part of WPP, was a finalist in OSI's last pitch, for flagship Outback Steakhouse. That account ultimately wound up at Interpublic Group of Cos.' Lowe, New York.

Second big loss
Recent months have seen turmoil at Cliff Freeman, which is owned by Toronto-based MDC Partners, also the parent of Crispin Porter & Bogusky and Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners.

The exit of the Bonefish Grill account follows the loss of the agency's Snapple account, which returned to Interpublic's Deutsch after a review. In November the agency pushed out its CEO of three years, Jeff McClelland.

Cliff Freeman's biggest client is sandwich chain Quiznos, but according to one executive familiar with the matter, the marketer has been talking to other agencies about handling its marketing. Quiznos did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

Quiznos, which handed its account to Cliff Freeman in 2007 after two years without an agency of record, has been shuttering locations due to lackluster marketing and a bruising promotional war with rival Subway.

Losing the Quiznos account, one of the few remaining at the shop, would be a major blow. According to TNS Media Intelligence, the chain spent $83 million in measured media in 2007.

Other Cliff Freeman clients include ice-cream chain Baskin Robbins and Quamut, an online collection of how-to guides published by Barnes & Noble.

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Contributing: Emily York, Jeremy Mullman
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