O’Charley’s Taps New Shop for Creative, Media

Doner succeeds Merkley on the business

O’Charley’s is taking its advertising business to the Midwest.

The restaurant chain, after nearly two years with New York shop Merkley + Partners, has hired Doner, which is based in Southfield, Mich., as its new lead agency.

The assignment encompasses both creative and media responsibilities. Annual account revenue is estimated at $1-2 million.

Doner won the business after a review, which came down to a handful of undisclosed agencies. Pile + Co. in Boston managed the process.

In making the hire, O’Charley’s chief marketing officer Jen Sanning cited Doner’s restaurant experience—Perkins Restaurant and Bakery is another account—and a “great feel for our brand and how to bring out its personality in a more dynamic way.”

The new agency’s first work is expected in September, with a full campaign slated to launch in early 2013.

Doner will handle the business from both Southfield and an office in Cleveland, where brand leader Larry DeAngelis is based. DeAngelis will be the account chief.

Amid the review, Merkley mounted an unusual defense, opting to redouble its day-to-day efforts on the brand rather than pitch. Ultimately, however, the shop was unable to surmount the typically long odds that incumbents face in reviews.