Grey, MediaCom Add BBQ Chain

NEW YORK Grey here said it has been assigned creative chores for Darden Restaurants’ Smokey Bones Barbeque and Grill chain.

Grey’s WPP Group sibling MediaCom picks up buying and planning chores. There was no review.

Smokey Bones, which debuted in 1999, operates more than 120 restaurants in the East and Midwest. The chain is broadening its menu with new sandwiches, salads, signature burgers and entrees to complement its slow-cooked barbeque selections.

The chain spent about $1 million last year in measured media, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Interpublic’s Lowe in New York had previously handled the assignment. Sources pegged 2006 ad spending at $8-10 million.

Grey has served as lead agency on Darden’s Olive Garden restaurants since 1984.

J.J. Buettgen, president of Smokey Bones, said, “Grey has been an outstanding partner in the growth and development of Olive Garden’s brand. We’re confident they will bring the same creativity, strategic thinking and deep understanding of the casual-dining marketplace to Smokey Bones as we continue our aggressive national expansion.”