Burger Chain Red Robin Launches Creative, Media Review

Restaurant Parts Ways with Minneapolis-Based Shop Periscope

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Red Robin has put its marketing account into review, Ad Age has learned.

For the past three years, the casual-dining chain, which has a focus on premium burgers, had been working with Minneapolis-based agency Periscope. The shop, which handled both creative and media duties, will not defend the account.

In a statement to Ad Age , the agency said: "Periscope and Red Robin have enjoyed a mutually prosperous relationship and we're very proud of the results we've achieved together. Red Robin's new senior leadership is taking the company and brand in a new direction and is exploring new options as they embark in this new endeavor."

Red Robin about a year ago named Denny Marie Post its new senior VP-chief marketing officer after senior VP-CMO Susan Lintonsmith left the chain a month prior. The restaurant chain confirmed the pitch, and noted that consultant Janet Bustin with Mzyme Marketing in Dallas is handling the review process.

The review is the second reported in the restaurant space in as many days. Yesterday Ad Age reported that Dairy Queen put its creative account, which had been at Grey for 15 years, into review. Overall there's been an uptick in review activity in the category recently. Wendy's in recent weeks began conducting a review for its digital account, which is currently at Publicis Kaplan Thaler, its lead creative agency. Burger King has been seeking additional agencies to potentially take on project work. And earlier this summer, Taco Bell tapped Digitas to handle its digital account -- which had been at its lead creative agency, DraftFCB -- after a review.

The chain spent nearly $20 million on domestic measured media last year, according to Kantar Media, and for the first six months of 2012, it spent more than $12 million. The chain has more than 460 restaurants in the U.S. and Canada.

Red Robin has been facing increasing competition from growing fast-casual chains in the so-called better-burger category. In early 2011 it announced a turnaround initiative, dubbed Project RED, an acronym for its main objectives: revenue growth, expense management and deployment of capital. Its same-store sales for 2011 were up 2.9%. In the first quarter of this year, though, sales were only up 0.5%, and during an earnings call, CEO Steve Carley said that sales disappointed because of discounting by competitors and missed marketing opportunities. The hope is that a new shop can help it to lift sales.

For Periscope, the blow is softened because it recently picked up the creative account for three Phillips Distilling liquor brands: UV Vodka, Prairie Organic Vodka and Revel Stoke Spiced Whisky.

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