The Applebee's restaurant chain and its parent company, DineEquity, formally launched a creative agency review today, exactly one year after handing the account to Kansas City independent agency Barkley. At the time, sources claimed that the decision followed an informal review based on Applebee's desire for a new creative direction after three years with incumbent CP+B.
"Applebee's Neighborhood Bar & Grill has chosen Select Resources International (SRI) to assist with its search for a new creative agency for its advertising business," read the statement from the company. "While Barkley has proven themselves to be creative and valuable partners, Applebee's felt the time was right to make a creative shift given the evolving restaurant landscape. This in no way impacts the relationships with our other long-standing agency partners in the marketing mix. Together, we have an incredible opportunity to energize this iconic brand, and we're excited to find the best creative partner for the journey."
This spring, Applebee's went through a brand relaunch that included a campaign focusing on its wood-fired steak dinners. Barkley led creative on the effort, which at $75 million marked the brand's largest-ever marketing spend.
Sources with direct knowledge of the matter claim Applebee's has struggled to differentiate itself in a particularly demanding market and that these challenges may have precipitated the new review.
According to Kantar Media, the brand spent approximately $76 million on measured media during the first half of 2016, marking a decline from last year when it spent around $103 million from January to June for an annual total of $170 million.