KBS Named Lead Agency for Red Robin

Move Comes as Brand Invests More in Digital and Mobile

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Casual dining burger chain Red Robin has named MDC Partners' KBS its new lead agency after a review.

KBS will be responsible for creative and brand strategy, along with digital media planning and buying via its media unit, the Media Kitchen. Interpublic's Initiative handles offline media. San Diego-based MDC sibling Vitro previously worked on the account, though the shop did not participate in the review, which was handled by Janet Bustin's Mzyme Marketing in Dallas.

Jonathan Muhtar
Jonathan Muhtar Credit: Courtesy of KBS

Red Robin chose the agency because "one of the things that resonated was this whole idea that they help companies modernize for a tech-infused world," said Jonathan Muhtar, chief marketing officer at Red Robin.

The company will be investing more in digital and mobile, including location-based targeting, which retailers and restaurant chains are increasingly interested in. The company in recent years had also been advertising heavily on TV, and it will continue to do so. How much will be spent on digital and mobile moving forward remains to be seen.

"TV is an important part of our marketing mix and we don't see moving away from TV, but we do see an increased emphasis on digital and social vehicles," Mr. Muhtar said.

The review began earlier this year, after Mr. Muhtar was named CMO in December. He said that the company launched a review because "we felt it was time to take a fresh look and evolve our brand positioning."

The first work from KBS will be launching in the late summer or early fall, Mr. Muhtar said.

For KBS, Red Robin follows its Stanley Black & Decker digital account win early in June, along with Keds and Monster.com. Also in June, KBS named Patrick Scissons its first global chief creative officer.

Ed Brojerdi
Ed Brojerdi Credit: Courtesy of KBS

"The category in general has had a specific stereotype of the kind of work they put out: [limited-time offers], in-restaurant, 15-second type work," said Ed Brojerdi, U.S. CEO at KBS. "When you're not the dominant spender in the category, you have to be more innovative and inventive in the way you communicate. We were so impressed with their knowledge of product innovation, mobile, content and influencer marketing."

Indeed, Red Robin is nowhere near being the dominant spender in restaurant advertising. The company in 2015 spent about $20.4 million on U.S. measured media, according to Kantar Media. McDonald's, the biggest spender in the restaurant category, spent nearly $803 million on U.S. measured media.

Red Robin is the 39th largest chain in the U.S., according to Technomic. Its systemwide sales rose 5.6% to $1.5 billion in 2015. There are more than 500 restaurants in the U.S. and Canada, according to the company.

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