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Hooters Taps IPG Media Agency Initiative

Incumbent was Knoxville's MP Media & Promotions

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Hooters last month introduced ribs to its menu.
Hooters last month introduced ribs to its menu.

Hooters has hired IPG media agency Initiative as it aims to fine-tune its marketing strategy.

Initiative's scope will include not only media buying and planning but also digital strategy and analytics, according to people familiar with the matter.

"Our relationship with Initiative is just beginning, but with each project I'm reassured that we made a good decision -- hiring the right agency to support our marketing efforts," said Marc Butler, senior VP of marketing and product development at Hooters. "They have the depth of resources to help us make strategic and well-thought-out media decisions and the investment capabilities we need to maximize our budget."

Hooters most recently worked with Knoxville, Tenn.-based MP Media & Promotions on its media business. The shop's owner, Melody Proud, said it has worked with Hooters for over 20 years and will continue to work on various marketing functions for the company's franchisees. She declined to comment further.

It's unclear what's in store for the restaurant chain as it shifts to a larger, holding-company owned media shop, but in combination with the recent appointment of a new chief marketing officer, it's likely indicative of a new marketing approach.

Jason Abelkop, who was most recently CMO of restaurant holding group Ovation Brands, joined Hooters as its lead marketing exec last month. Mike McNeil, who had been at the company for over 20 years, left in early 2012. At the time, Dave Henninger succeeded Mr. McNeil, but he left late last year.

For Hooters' new CMO, Initiative is a familiar partner. Prior to 2010, Mr. Abelkop served in a senior marketing role at quick-serve chain Arby's. Initiative has been working with Arby's for about a decade, and worked closely with Mr. Abelkop when he was there.

For Initiative, it's a small but fun and high-profile account. Hooters spent under $10 million on measured media in 2013. Among Initiative's clients are Hyundai Kia, Amazon and Miller Coors.

"Partnering with a company that has always been a trailblazer within its industry excites us," said Shane Ankeney, chief client officer for Initiative U.S, in a statement. "We look forward to delivering breakthrough results for their franchisees."

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