Red Lobster Launches Review

Red Lobster, a unit of Darden Restaurants, has confirmed a review of creative and media planning duties on its brand. The incumbent, independent The Richards Group, is not defending.

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.

The client is using Boston consultancy Pile + Co. to manage the search, which is expected to conclude in the summer, a representative said. Among the key decision-makers will be Salli Setta, the restaurant’s evp of marketing.

Media buying duties are not in play and remain at Publicis Groupe’s Zenith Media.

Richards has handled the creative and media planning business since 2004. Agency principal Diane Fannon characterized the review as a “major corporate initiative. They’re looking to restructure. We wish them the best.”

Darden’s other brands include Olive Garden (which spent $156 million on ads last year) and Bahama Breeze (which tallied $1 million in measured media). WPP Group’s Grey in New York is lead creative agency for Olive Garden and Richards handles those duties on Bahama Breeze.

This story updates an earlier item with client confirmation and additional details.