Via Group Nabs Friendly's Account After a Review

Agency to Handle Creative, Digital and Media Planning

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East Coast restaurant and ice-cream chain Friendly's has awarded its marketing account to independent agency Via Group, Portland, Maine, after a review. Via Group will handle creative, digital and media planning, and will work with media agency KSL Media, New York -- also new to Friendly's roster -- which will handle media buying.

Other agencies involved in the review were WPP's Berlin Cameron, New York, and ML Rogers, New York. The incumbent, Omnicom Group's Zimmerman Advertising, did not participate. The pitch was led by Boston-based consultancy Pile & Co.

"We're looking to re-imagine our brand, and we think we could be more compelling and more relevant today," Andrea McKenna, Friendly's exec VP-chief marketing officer, told Ad Age . She added that Friendly's enjoyed a "great relationship with Zimmerman," but that it seemed like the appropriate time for reinvention and "to re-imagine the future." Ms. McKenna joined Friendly's in August, along with Chairman-CEO Harsha Agadi.

Zimmerman, which handled marketing and media duties, won the account in late 2007.

Sun Capital Partners, the private investment firm that owns Friendly's, is also home to Boston Market, another restaurant on Zimmerman's roster. Friendly's in 2010 increased its ad spending to $10.3 million, up 42% from about $7.3 million in 2009, according to Kantar. However, according to Technomic, the chain's sales do not reflect the same trend. Technomic said the chain had 492 restaurants and $597 million in U.S. sales in 2010, down from 507 locations and $613 million in sales in 2009.

As for whether Friendly's plans to increase its ad spending, Ms. McKenna said that remains to be seen. "One of our challenges is to make the marketing dollars go as far as possible," she said.

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