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Red Lobster Reviews Its Creative Business

Annual media spending exceeds $156 million

Photo: Steve Silverman Imaging

Red Lobster has launched a review of its creative business, which Grey has handled since 2010.

The restaurant chain's media spending exceeded $156 million last year, down slightly from about $160 million in 2012 according to Kantar Media.

Red Lobster owner Darden Restaurants, under scrutiny by activist shareholders, has said it is considering a spinoff or sale of the struggling seafood chain. A  rep at Red Lobster confirmed the creative review and explained: "The search is happening because of Red Lobster’s upcoming separation from Darden."

Last month as the Orlando company reported third quarter earnings, it said same-restaurant sales at Red Lobster declined 8.8 percent from the year-earlier period. Late last year Darden CEO Clarence Otis told investors the company will continue to cut marketing costs because of those declining sales.

Pile + Co. is managing the agency search process, as it did four years ago when the New York office of Grey won the account from The Richards Group, then the incumbent of six years.

Grey, which launched the tagline, “Sea Food Differently,” is not defending, according to sources. The WPP Group agency also handles lead creative responsibilities for two other Darden restaurants: The Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse.

Grey declined to comment, referring calls to the Orlando-based chain, which could not immediately be reached.

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