Long John Silver’s Picks Northlich

BOSTON Yum! Brands’ Long John Silver’s has selected independent Northlich for creative chores on its estimated $45 million ad account following a review.

Omnicom Group’s Element 79 in Chicago had handled the business since 2004 and was invited to defend.

“We believe there’s a rich emotional and cultural connection consumers have with Long John Silver’s. We will build on an equity LJS has that can’t be owned by anyone else,” said Don Perkins, CCO at Northlich in Cincinnati. “We’re working on concepts that travel across media and easily translate to executions online, at the street level, through in-store promotions and to motivate employees.”

LJS earlier this year broke a campaign using the slogan, “Throw boring overboard.” One spot depicted three fishermen pulling up a net of square-shaped “unnatural” fish designed to fit on a bun, a dig at fast-food chains like McDonald’s that sell breaded fish sandwiches but mainly known for other fare.

LJS has more than 1,200 outlets worldwide. Sales for the company have been flat at around $780 million between 2003 and 2005, according to Technomic in Chicago. That inability to grow sales was a key review driver.

Low-profile Northlich was an underdog going into the review, but prevailed based on a combination of its creative ideas (executed against a detailed brief provided by the client) and the fact that senior agency management promised to personally shepherd the account, which becomes one of the agency’s largest, per sources. Yum! tapped Northlich earlier this year to work on its A&W chain, and that relationship was also a factor in the LJS decision.

Other review contenders could not be determined.

LJS spent just over $30 million in U.S. measured media last year, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. But earlier this year, company officials indicated spending could increase as much as 50 percent to $45 million this year.

Yum! owns several other brands, including KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.

Interpublic Group’s DraftFCB handles KFC and Taco Bell out of its Chicago office, while Omnicom’s BBDO in New York is Pizza Hut’s lead agency.

Northlich was founded in 1949 and has about 150 employees and $130 million in overall capitalized billings. The agency handles both online and offline efforts and earlier this year absorbed Columbus, Ohio-based i-shop Interactive Ink to boost its digital acumen and gain a small outpost in Washington, D.C.

Other key Northlich clients include Birds Eye, Brown-Forman and Procter & Gamble.