Firehouse Subs Drops Marc USA, Hires Richards Group

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Firehouse Subs CEO Don Fox.
Firehouse Subs CEO Don Fox. Credit: Firehouse Subs/Firehouse of America LLC
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The Richards Group has another new restaurant account, picking up Firehouse Subs as the sandwich chain decided to abandon its new creative direction after less than a year with Marc USA.

Firehouse hired Marc USA in December and that agency's work for the restaurant launched in February.

"We appreciate the work performed and services provided by Marc USA during our time together," Firehouse CEO Don Fox said in a statement. "Marc USA's work was both strategic and highly creative. In these challenging times across our industry, however, we decided to go in another direction. We saw the opportunity of a great competitive advantage with The Richards Group."

The Richards Group was selected following a competitive review, which was supported by The New England Consulting Group. When Firehouse selected Marc USA last year, that review was led by Select Resources International.

For The Richards Group, the win comes soon after it won the Boston Market account and follows the loss of longtime client Chick-fil-A this summer.

Rhonda Contreras, principal at The Richards Group, said the agency is handling everything from strategy and creative development to digital and media planning for Firehouse Subs. The agency began working on the business last month and its first work for the brand is expected to launch in January.

The Firehouse Subs logo and tagline.
The Firehouse Subs logo and tagline. Credit: Firehouse Subs/Firehouse of America LLC

One of the main goals on the account is to tell Firehouse's brand story, specifically about the chain's heritage of being founded by two firemen, said Ms. Contreras. Upwards of 50 staffers are currently working on the Firehouse Subs business, she said.

She added that the agency will support franchisees and learn their local market challenges to help them become more successful. The Richards Group is in the process of media planning, so while the agency is unsure whether or not the work will be national, Ms. Contreras said it will definitely have a "really local feel."

Firehouse stopped running TV spots in late September to begin planning its new ad strategy with The Richards Group, Mr. Fox said. The Richards Group also handles media buying as part of the account.

Marc USA continues to work with the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation. Marc USA's work for Firehouse was a bit of a creative shift for the sub shop chain, as the founders were not featured. It also included a new tagline, "The hero of all subs."

Mr. Fox declined to say whether Firehouse would stick with the tagline or whether the founders would return to the chain's advertising.

"We're extremely proud of the campaign we created for Firehouse Subs restaurants," Marc USA said in a statement to Ad Age. "It outperformed the industry in key rankings and significantly improved awareness and trial; however, Firehouse Subs has decided to go in another direction. We enjoyed working with them and wish them the best moving forward."