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Hill's Got the Scoop

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Striving to define its niche in the increasingly competitive casual dining marketplace, Friendly Ice Cream Corp. has awarded its advertising account to GMO/Hill, Holliday without a formal review.

The San Francisco unit of Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos in Boston was chosen by the restaurant chain mainly be-cause of a past relationship between Friendly president and chief operating officer John Cutter and Goldberg Moser O'Neill, agency and client officials agreed. GMO merged with Hill, Holliday earlier this year.

Cutter had worked with GMO during the 1990's while a senior manager at Boston Market restaurants.

Friendly's budget is estimated in the $18-20 million range, consistent with ad spending in the past few years.

"We're trying to understand where we fit in the marketplace and what our long-term positioning should be" in the face of increased competition from Applebee's, Chili's and others, said Richard Couch, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Friendly.

Based in Wilbraham, Mass., the chain of about 600 Friendly's restaurants in the Northeast and mid-At-lantic states recent-ly worked with Terry Heffernan Films, San Francisco, for commercial production chores and Advantage Media, Lakewood, Colo., for media.

"We needed one agency that could do it all," Couch said.

A TV blitz, which broke in March and is still on-air in many markets, touts "The New Friendly's," and focuses on a renewed commitment to customer service and a revamped menu.

GMO/Hill, Holliday's first work for the client will break in the first quarter of 2001.