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Applebee's Looks for New Creative Agency

McCann won't defend $100 million-plus account
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There's no longer any place in the neighborhood for McCann Erickson: Applebee’s has put its U.S. creative account up for review.

The Lenexa, Kansas company, which says it is the world’s largest casual dining chain, said it spends more than $100 million annually on advertising including national TV spots, local advertising and on social media.

Applebee’s is working with Morgan Anderson Consulting, N.Y. in the search, and said it expects to conclude its review by the end of the first quarter. Applebee’s media agency, Universal McCann is not affected and will continue to work with the chain.

McCann won creative duties on the business in 2007 after IHOP, already an agency client, acquired Applebee’s in a $1.9 billion transaction.

In a statement, Becky Johnson, svp, marketing and culinary at Applebee’s Services Inc. said, “We’ve made significant changes to our food, beverage, menu, buildings and marketing communications in the past year. Given those changes, and the ever-shifting consumer landscape, we need to continue to evolve how we grow the health of our brand.”

The Interpublic agency is choosing not to defend. Linus Karlsson, chief creative officer of McCann N.Y. said:

“For the past five years, we have helped our Applebee’s client to not only hold their own but also innovate in a very tough competitive landscape and in the past few years especially, through a depressed economy. We respect Applebee’s decision and while they have asked us to participate we have decided to decline their invitation.” 

It’s been tough recently for McCann which just lost the bulk of its Exxon Mobil business and that of another long-time brand Nescafe. However the agency said it has just won duties to overhaul Ikea’s website.