Cracker Barrel Returns to Buntin

Out-of-Home Media Unit Welcomes Back Eatery After 10 Years
ATLANTA–In changing its marketing strategy, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store has come home.
A decade after the folksy restaurant chain launched its outdoor advertising with The Buntin Group, the account has returned.
The decision marks the client’s final step away from its onetime lead agency, Chicago’s Cramer-Krasselt. The incumbent saw its Cracker Barrel holdings slowly dwindle away over the last year.
“Cracker Barrell is changing its agency strategy,” said client vice president of marketing Judy Cantrell. “We are placing individual components of our marketing program with agencies that have a high degree of specialization in specific disciplines.”
Client director of corporate communications Julie Davies said the decision was made without a formal review, after the Lebanon, Tenn.-based company had conversations with several undisclosed agencies.
The account will be handled by Buntin Out-of-Home Media, a division of the Nashville, Tenn., shop.
Cracker Barrel operates more than 400 restaurants in 37 states. Most are located on major interstates, making outdoor media crucial. One source familiar with the account said the total for all non-outdoor advertising amounted to less than $2 million.
Both client and agency said the budget for the outdoor account was $18 million. Competitive Media Reporting puts the client’s 1998 outdoor advertising at $7.6 million and total spending at $9.8 million.
“We worked for [Cracker Barrel] for a number of years before they went to Cramer,” said the agency’s chief executive officer, Jeffrey Buntin. “We know their concept, we know their requirements, we know more about the outdoor business than anybody they were talking with.”
Part of the agency’s attraction to the client is service, said Buntin. “We’ll be running a maintenance program for them, too. . . We’re responsible for keeping all the [billboards] lit and in good condition. We’ve got a good relationship with all these outdoor companies, and if there’s a problem, we’re on it in 24 hours,” he said.
The shift from Cramer to Buntin means the Cracker Barrel account is now split into three segments. Cadmus Direct Marketing in Charlotte, N.C., handles the restaurant’s relationship marketing, including data processing duties. Phoenix Creative in St. Louis is responsible for in-store merchandising.