NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- John "Big Daddy" Bishop, founder of Alabama's Dreamland barbecue restaurants, hasn't been on the top side of soil since 1997. But in an Elvis-like move last year, he ran for governor of Alabama to promote pork-barrel spending of a different sort.It was Sullivan-St. Clair Marketing & Public Relations of Mobile, Alabama, that channeled Big Daddy to solve a common restaurant-industry problem. After Dreamland's Montgomery, Alabama, franchise failed to serve up food and service on par with the company's standards, Dreamland bought the unit back, shaped it up and turned to Sullivan-St. Clair in the hope of turning around the restaurant's image. "Basically, we had to say it didn't suck anymore in an interesting way," said agency president Rich Sullivan.
Two weeks later Mr. Sullivan's team launched Big Daddy's gubernatorial campaign. The idea: If Big Daddy can do so much from beyond the grave for one of his restaurants, imagine what he could do for the great state of Alabama. Teams hit the streets with "Sorry I missed you" door hangers/bounce-back coupons, buttons appeared and yard signs went up. The agency also launched a campaign website. As a final touch, the company decked out the Montgomery restaurant to look like a campaign headquarters.
While sales numbers aren't in yet for Dreamland's fourth quarter, Mr. Sullivan says he's been told the restaurant doubled traffic. The push also landed front-page coverage in the Montgomery Advertiser. Not bad for a campaign that had a budget of less than $25,000.
The campaign may not have taken Big Daddy from the smokehouse in the sky to the statehouse, but it did earn Sullivan-St.Clair Nation's Restaurant News' Best Promotion of 2006.
Mr. Sullivan, the son of one of the agency's founders, considers this a great 30th-anniversary gift for the agency and is happy to report that calls from potential clients are rolling in.