Red Lobster Taps Grey for $120 Million Account

New York Shop Bests DraftFCB, Ogilvy and Saatchi in Final Round

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NEW YORK ( -- Red Lobster has tapped Grey, New York, to serve as its creative agency of record, beating out Interpublic Group of Cos.' DraftFCB, WPP's Ogilvy and Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, in a final round.

The WPP shop succeeds independent Richards Group, Dallas, which, though invited, declined to participate in the review, as the agency does not defend business in play.

Final pitches took place earlier this month in Orlando,Fla., and in the final stretch of the pitch it's said to have come down to a two-way race between Grey and Saatchi. According to one person familiar with the brief, the challenge the seafood chain gave was about creating ads and communications that are less focused on the food -- flying shrimp, crab legs being cracked open and juicy lemons -- and more focused on the idea of Red Lobster being a place where people come together.

According to Kantar Media, the parent company of Red Lobster, Darden Restaurants, which also owns Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse, spent almost $300 million on domestic measured media in 2009. Of that, $119 million was devoted to marketing Red Lobster last year, and between January and May of 2010, it has spent $57 million.

Grey has long had a relationship with the client; it's currently agency of record for both Olive Garden and Longhorn, and in the past has worked on the Red Lobster business. The return of the account means Grey is lead creative shop for all of Darden's major restaurant brands.

"Grey demonstrated superb creativity, strategic thinking, integrated capabilities and a deep understanding of the casual-dining marketplace," said Salli Setta, exec VP-marketing at Red Lobster. "We look forward to working with this great team to leverage the growth and success of Red Lobster in the years ahead."

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