Romann Employs Sword Play, Anime for Benihana

NEW YORK A Japanese kendo sword fight and an animated chase sequence are used as metaphors for the thrill of having a chef cook at a restaurant table in The Romann Group’s new campaign for Benihana.

The sword-fight spot, which breaks next week, depicts a man dueling a woman, in what looks like a movie trailer. After a few parries, the action cuts to a daydreaming mother and her son, who says, “Mom, what do you want to eat?” The waiter is the man she crossed swords with in the previous scene.

The animated spot, which is still in post-production, has the look and feel of Japanese anime, said agency principal and creative director Gad Romann. It opens with a young couple rolling up to a curb on a motorcycle. Suddenly, cars surround them and the woman is kidnapped. The man gives chase on the motorcycle, following them to a restaurant. But when he enters the restaurant, he finds a crowd of friends saying, “Surprise.” The heart-thumping chase and party turn out to be a birthday present from his girlfriend.

The action sequences aim to reach a younger generation of restaurant-goers, specifically 18- to 24-year-olds who have embraced Asian culture, be it in music, dress or movies, said Romann. “When you’ve been in business for 40 years, the question is, how do you stay current?”

The campaign, which retains “An experience at every table” as the tagline, also includes billboard and radio ads. The TV spots will air in markets such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas, Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Plans also call for an action game on Benihana’s Web site, which will play off of the animated spot. Spending on the effort is estimated at $5 million.

The New York shop has handled the Benihana account for about 15 years.