Friendly's Scoops Up SCC as Creative Agency of Record

Family Restaurant Set To Use Its Famous Ice Cream To Promote $5.55 Lunches and Dinners

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Friendly's Restaurant
Friendly's Restaurant Credit: Friendly's
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Friendly's has hired Schafer Condon Carter as its creative agency as the restaurant chain rolls out a $5.55 value play and other campaigns to spur growth.

Recent efforts have included the idea that "ice cream can make a bad day a little less bad, and a good day a little better," said Randy Davis, who has been Friendly's chief marketing officer since 2014. A TV campaign last year from Forge Worldwide "was solid" but the chain decided it needed to be better at promoting its value menu offerings, he said.

"We had sort of lived on historical appeal and interest from people," said Mr. Davis, who sees rivals as varied as IHOP, Denny's, Applebee's and even McDonald's and other fast-food chains promoting value bundles. "We have to be current, we have to be relevant for today's needs and situations," and be preferred, he added.

The chain's marketing work has been handled by multiple agencies in recent years.

After working with Allen & Gerritsen, in early 2015 Friendly's awarded its traditional advertising, including TV, radio, outdoor and print, to Forge. It also increased marketing spending to about 6% of sales, up from 3%.

Forge has done the company's first-quarter 2016 work, including a focus on a big breakfast value play: 50% off breakfast Monday through Friday. That campaign has led to major increases in traffic at breakfast time, Mr. Davis said.

"Last year was a turning point and this year our sales are up significantly and we continue to grow market share," Mr. Davis said.

Massachusetts-based Friendly's began as the "Friendly" ice cream shop in 1935.

It now has about 260 locations, a sharp drop from decades ago when more than 500 locations served its sundaes and Fribble shakes. It was once owned by Hershey and is now part of Sun Capital Partners Inc.'s portfolio. Friendly's filed for bankruptcy protection in October 2011 after struggling with the economic downturn and higher commodity costs.

Beginning April 4, Friendly's will promote five lunch and dinner options at $5.55 in its first work from SCC. Ice cream is not part of the $5.55 menu, which includes items such as a double cheeseburger with fries. However, ice cream has a playful role in the campaign, which also includes CEO John Maguire.

"You get the history of the brand" with ice cream being in the spot, which also introduces the new $5.55 value menu, said SCC Managing Partner Jim Stadler. "We see it as very flexible moving forward with other topics that they want to talk about."

This year, Friendly's plans to spend about $10 million on media. The East Coast chain, which has both company-owned and franchised locations, will allocate 5% to 5.5% of sales to marketing, Mr. Davis said. Along with the new $5.55 campaign, its work includes sponsoring weather segments during morning news programs as a way to promote its breakfast deal.

Friendly's media agency is CAM Media. Netplus handles its digital work.

Mr. Stadler will lead SCC's creative work for Friendly's. Its other restaurant client is Chicago-area pizza chain Giordano's.