Red Lobster Eyes 4

Red Lobster has narrowed its search for an agency to handle creative and media planning duties on its advertising account to four shops, sources said.

Sources identified the shops as Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi in New York, Interpublic Group’s Draftfcb in Chicago and WPP Group units Ogilvy & Mather and Grey, both in New York.

Red Lobster’s major media spending totaled more than $115 million last year, roughly the same as in 2008, according to Nielsen. Those figures don’t include online spending.

Client executives selected the finalists based on replies to a request for proposals that Red Lobster issued last month. Pile + Co. in Boston is managing the review.

Pile and the client, a unit of Darden Restaurants in Orlando, Fla., could not immediately be reached. The agencies either declined to comment or did not return calls.

The winner will succeed independent The Richards Group in Dallas, which is not defending. Richards has handled the business since 2004.
Not in play are media buying duties, which remain at Publicis Groupe’s Zenith Media in New York.