McCann Preps ‘Spokesapple’

NEW YORK Applebee’s is getting a facelift.

In addition to a new logo, redesigned menu and new employee uniforms, the restaurant chain is set to introduce a TV campaign that features a rather unusual spokesperson: the “spokesapple.”

“Advertising in the casual-dining industry has become a sea of sameness,” said George Williams, CMO, in a statement. “The key to our success is to differentiate our brand with an ad campaign that resonates with consumers … as uniquely Applebee’s, and entertains each time it is seen. This bold, innovative campaign that uses a spokesapple to bring people together hits the mark.”

The TV spot, which begins its eight-week national run Oct. 28, marks the debut of McCann Erickson, New York, as Applebee’s agency.

In one version, the spokesapple sits on a park bench next to a man sending text messages to his friends. The apple chides him for not, in his techno-obsession, realizing that “you people need to get eyeball-to-eyeball over the flavors that bring people together.” The spot cuts to the man eating with his friends at Applebee’s, and closes with the voiceover, “Applebee’s. Get it together, baby.” The TV campaign will promote the restaurant’s “Pick n’ Pair” lunch combos as well as the new Steakhouse Classics.

The campaign, which aims its focus at promoting the chain as a meeting place for friends and family, was McCann’s winning pitch when it was competing to take over for ex-incumbent DraftFCB, Chicago, earlier this year. Additional advertising will include Web ads on sites that the company said “bring people together,” including Evite.com, Reunion.com and Classmates.com.

The advertising arrives after Applebee’s recent agreement to be acquired by IHOP and on the heels of some dismal earnings. The chain posted sales of $80.9 million in 2006, dropping from $101.8 million in 2005 and $110.9 million in 2004. For the second quarter, ended in August, the company posted earnings gains of roughly 18 percent, rising to $24.2 million, versus $20.4 million a year ago. However, compounded with the prior quarter’s figures, income had dropped 29 percent to $33.6 million versus $47.6 million in 2006.

Applebee’s spent $185 million on advertising in 2006, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.