T.G.I. Fridays takes a relaxed approach to new effort

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Following a month-long test in four markets, T.G.I. Friday's broke a $30 million TV campaign Feb. 19 from Publicis Groupe's Publicis in Mid-America, Dallas, that takes a relaxed look at dining out.

Called "Real People, Real Moments," the campaign departs from last year's "Boom Boom" effort which touted the energy and activity of the restaurant. "The new campaign is more intimate and uses a more up-close perspective on the table near you than on the entire restaurant," said Steve McGehee, senior principal management supervisor at Publicis.

The shift follows consumer research that indicated people's time constraints were getting worse, and because of that, people want a more relaxed eating experience

In keeping with the slower pace, the agency abandoned the high effects and quick cuts used in the prior campaign-"clever quick edits that might send a wrong message to customers," Mr. McGehee said. "If they're already in this frenetic pace why would they want to come to the restaurant and get the same thing?"

The first spot, called "Messy Jack" uses tight camera shots and rich lighting to promote the Jack Daniel's line of grill products. The scene is focused on a pair of young attractive couples talking, laughing and making lots of eye contact as the spicy sauce drips from their fingers and blues legend John Lee Hooker smoothly sings, "This is hip." A second theme, called "Food Swappin,'" features more hipsters passing food between them to the up-tempo beat of "Be Yourself." from European pop band Marcheeba. Screen copy loaded with double entendre reads: "Experimentation is back."

Four executions, including a localized spot, will promote menu items including smothered steak and chicken, Angus steak and burgers, and boneless ribs. They will roll out quarterly after beginning in the second quarter, based on franchisee approval. About half of the 450 Carlson Marketing Worldwide units are franchised.

While the target market generally includes adults 21 to 49, the marketer focused on the 27-year-old upscale urbanite for the spots. "As the American demographic shifts over time, we want to make sure we're relevant to that audience of young adults," said John Gilbert, senior VP-marketing and research and development for T.G. I. Friday's Carlson Restaurants Worldwide

Casual dining, which accounts for 25% of the sit-down dinner market, is the hottest segment in the restaurant category and seems to be gaining steam despite the slumping economy. But industry tracking by NPD Group shows consumers dined out for dinner 27 times over the year, the same amount 15 years ago, forcing chains to compete more aggressively for share. Friday's is the third-largest of the varied menu casual chains behind No. 1 Applebee's International's Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar and No. 2 Chili's Grill & Bar, a Brinker International restaurant.

As a result, the market share battle is being waged more on experiences than the menu. "People have moved from mid-priced restaurants to more upscale casual dining because it gives you more than a meal," said Harry Balzer, VP for NPD Group. "The segment has to be the place for new things to try and new things to experience"

Copyright February 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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