Chick-fil-A has ended its 22-year relationship with The Richards Group in a major shakeup at the chicken chain that includes moving its campaign to McCann New York and hiring a roster of agencies for other marketing that will not use its ubiquitious cows.
The changes come a year and a half after longtime Chick-fil-A executive Jon Bridges became the fast-feeder's chief marketing officer. He has been working on a "Cows-plus" marketing strategy, proposing the chain keep using the cows in some marketing while branching out beyond the bovines to tell stories on topics such as food, people and service that might not fit as well into the cow theme.
"The cows are an integral part of the brand. They're our mascot, if you will. But they aren't the brand. The brand is bigger than that," Mr. Bridges said in an interview.
Under Mr. Bridges, Chick-fil-A has held two jump balls to find creative work that does not feature the cows. The Richards Group participated in each of the sessions, one in 2015 centered on the chain's people, and one in 2016 for a new breakfast campaign. It did not win either project.
Erich & Kallman won the chance to work on the breakfast campaign, which marks the first major TV campaign for the newly-formed agency. Commercials, social videos and other marketing begin airing July 30 and make no references to the cows. Instead, they showcase six historical figures who had what were considered crazy ideas and now have the idea of eating chicken for breakfast. The theme is "Chicken for Breakfast. It's not as crazy as you think."
"The idea chicken for breakfast isn't something that most people pop up in the morning and think about," said Eric Kallman, creative director and co-founder of Erich & Kallman.
The work includes commercials featuring actors portraying prominent people including Amelia Earhart, Alexander Graham Bell, Ludwig van Beethoven, Michelangelo, Susan B. Anthony and Thomas Edison. "Whatever they did historically had to kind of feel like they beat the odds and it was something that people didn't think they might accomplish," Mr. Kallman said.
The spots mix history lessons with current notes. For example, Ms. Earhart is shown flying an old-fashioned airplane resembling one she flew across the Atlantic Ocean, then uses a smartphone to take a selfie.
Steve Erich, co-founder and managing director at Erich & Kallman, said the small agency is set on maintaining a limited full-time staff (for now, it's essentially just him and Mr. Kallman) and reaching out to a variety of partners for projects. On Chick-fil-A, it worked with director Harold Einstein at Dummy Films. Moxie, Chick-fil-A's social media agency, pitched in on extensions of the campaign such as GIFs.
The commercials promote the chain's newest breakfast sandwich, the Egg White Grill, which it began selling on July 18. The introduction of the new, lighter breakfast sandwich comes as Chick-fil-A has seen competitors sharpen their focus on breakfast. Among them, McDonald's continues to see success with its All Day Breakfast menu, after Taco Bell's 2014 breakfast introduction and as chains such as Dunkin' Donuts and Denny's continue to tinker with their breakfast items.
Chick-fil-A began selling the Chicken Biscuit, its first breakfast item, in 1986. However, only 5% of people are aware that Chick-fil-A serves breakfast, Mr. Bridges said. He noted that breakfast sales are as low as a few hundred dollars at some locations and up to $10,000 at others.
Now, breakfast is getting its moment in the spotlight. The chicken for breakfast campaign is set to serve as a key part of Chick-fil-A's messaging heading into the fall, a big part of its marketing calendar with its college football tie-ins.
Read the full story on Chick-fil-A and The Richards Group's parting of ways on Adage.com.