Dairy Queen Parts With Grey After 15 Years, Starts Creative Agency Search

Grey Declines to Participate in Review

By Published on .

After a 15-year relationship with Grey Advertising, Dairy Queen is conducting a creative agency search, Ad Age has learned. Grey has declined to participate in the review.

"There's new management at DQ and as you know we've been partnering with them for 15 years, which in the QSR (quick-service-restaurant) category is a lifetime," Michael Houston, managing director of Grey , New York, told Ad Age . "We're extremely proud of the work we've done with them. We understand that this is part of the business and wish them nothing but the best."

Asked if he's expecting the loss of the DQ account to result in any staffing reductions, Mr. Houston said he doesn't expect there to be any significant impact. "We've been fortunate to have had a pretty decent year from a business development and organic growth standpoint," he said, adding, "And we understand that there's a lot of movement in the QSR category."

Barry Westrum, exec VP-marketing for the chain, said in a statement: "The QSR category is highly competitive and is at a crossroads." He noted that despite a strong relationship with Grey , Dairy Queen is looking for a change and wants to put in place a new agency by early 2013. "Our franchisees are hard-working business leaders in their communities who are passionate about their business," Mr. Westrum said. "Our intention is to provide them with the best advertising campaign that promotes our great food and iconic treats and differentiates us from the rest of the quick-service category. ...The iconic nature of the brand and charm is authentic to DQ. It is something everyone, no matter where you are, can relate to. Together with our franchisees, we want that reflected in our advertising."

Compared to many marketers, Dairy Queen has been incredibly loyal to its agency partners and has had lengthy relationships with them. It's worked with Grey since 1997, when the agency took over for Campbell Mithun, which had the account for nearly 35 years.

The marketer spent $77 million on domestic measured media last year, and between January and June of this year it spent more than $30 million according to Kantar. The pitch does not impact DQ's media agency of record, Publicis Groupe 's Spark, or any other agency partners.

DQ first opened in 1938 in Illinois, but its mass advertising really took off in the 1960s. It had its first national radio campaign in 1965, while its first national TV ad, called "Live a Little," aired the following year. The chain has since experimented with different concepts, such as its Grill & Chill restaurants, first launched in 2001. It's currently experimenting with rolling out "Orange Julius"-branded smoothie stations at DQs around the U.S.

Today the chain, which is best known for its blended Blizzard desserts, is headquartered in Minneapolis. There are more than 6,000 Dairy Queen locations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and 17 other countries. The company's parent is Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway. Coincidentally, another Berkshire Hathaway company, Fruit of the Loom, is also currently doing a creative review. That pitch is being managed by Boston-based Pile & Co.

The Dairy Queen review is the latest in what's shaping up to be an active review season for fast food. Wendy's in August began conducting a review for its digital account, which is currently at Publicis Kaplan Thaler, its lead creative agency. Also in August, Ad Age reported that Burger King was seeking additional agencies to potentially take on project work for the chain. Earlier this summer, Taco Bell tapped Digitas to handle its digital account -- which had been at its lead creative agency, DraftFCB -- after a review.

Most Popular