LongHorn Steakhouse Enlists Grey

BOSTON WPP Group’s Grey said it has added to its Darden Restaurants business, gaining lead agency status on the company’s LongHorn Steakhouse without a review.

Orlando, Fla.-based Darden acquired the 300-restaurant LongHorn chain’s parent company, Rare Hospitality, late last year. The deal was valued at $1.4 billion.

Ad spending on LongHorn will likely be in the $20 million range, about the same amount the client spent in U.S. media in 2007, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

The chain operates mainly in the Eastern, Southern and Midwestern U.S. The eatery specializes in steaks, seafood and other dishes in a Western-style atmosphere.

Grey in New York has worked for Darden’s Olive Garden for almost 25 years.

Said Steve Hardwick, president of Grey: “We’re very proud of our partnership with Darden. Adding LongHorn gives us another chance to create a powerhouse brand.”

Client president Dave George praised the agency’s “creativity, strategic thinking and deep understanding of the casual dining marketplace.”

LongHorn had recently worked with IPG’s Fitzgerald + Co. in Atlanta, hiring the shop for creative chores  following a review in December 2006. Spending at the time was about $15 million.