RED LOBSTER OPENS UP $80 MIL REVIEW: CHAIN SAYS IT'S ANALYZING ALL BUSINESS PARTNERSHIPS

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Darden Restaurants' surprising decision to review creative on its $80 million Red Lobster account came just weeks after a major relaunch of the chain from Grey Advertising, New York.

That leaves 12-year incumbent Grey to defend the campaign it just began, against undisclosed agency competitors.

Red Lobster said it's re-evaluating all business partnerships except for Cordiant's Zenith Media, which will keep media buying.

EMPHASIZING FRESHNESS

The advertising that began in early April attempts to emphasize fresh ingredients and preparation techniques, with TV spots showing ships, crashing waves and seafood being carried in from the sea.

The new tagline-"Prepared so fresh you can taste it"-replaces the longtime "For the seafood lover in you."

"We feel pretty good about the creative. We've developed it with Grey and we're on the air and we have high hopes for it," said Wyman Roberts, exec VP-marketing, who added that Grey will participate in the review. "We're evaluating all our partners to be sure we have the best team moving forward with this brand. We're looking for the best creative thoughts on our business."

Review consultant Morgan Anderson & Co., New York, will conduct the review. Mr. Roberts said a decision is expected by mid-July.

"We have a stellar growth record with Darden, and we fully intend to defend the business," said a Grey spokeswoman.

SALES DOWN 1%

For the 39 weeks ended Feb. 25, Red Lobster's sales were down 1% to $1.4 billion. Darden's other chain, Olive Garden, saw sales rise 3.5% to $962 million in the same period.

Since last fall Red Lobster has spruced up its menu and added a culinary manager to each of its restaurants to improve food preparation.

Darden said its $60 million Olive Garden account is safe at Grey, but at least one New York agency is talking to the chain about the account.

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