Chili’s Puts Its Advertising Business in Review After 10 Years With Hill Holliday

Chain reportedly not seeking an agency of record

The company spent $129 million on paid media in the U.S. in 2016. Chili's Bar & Grill/Facebook
Headshot of Patrick Coffee

Chili’s Bar and Grill, the fast-casual chain owned by Brinker International, has begun talking to agencies regarding its creative and digital advertising business.

The account has been with Hill Holiday since 2007, when the Boston-based IPG network won creative and media duties for the Tex-Mex brand.

According to several parties with direct knowledge of the matter, Chili’s has ended its relationship with Hill Holliday and now looks to engage agencies on a per-project basis for future broadcast and digital campaigns.

The move comes because Chili’s, like many other franchise and chain-based businesses, has encountered revenue challenges as Americans eat out less regularly. By shifting away from the agency of record model, the company looks to streamline its marketing budget moving forward.

Specifics regarding the review, such as the number of agencies involved and the proposed division of creative, digital and media duties, are unclear at this time, though a source tells Adweek that Crispin Porter + Bogusky, which works with Domino’s and counted Applebee’s as a client until late 2015, is involved in talks with the chain.

Representatives for Hill Holliday and CP+B declined to comment for this story. The chain’s parent company and its head of media relations have not responded to multiple requests for comment.

According to the latest numbers from Kantar Media, Chili’s spent approximately $129 million on measured media in the U.S. in 2016, up from $117 in 2015.

Despite that upturn, Brinkers recently conducted a series of tests and told investors of plans to simplify its menus in a recent quarterly earnings call, according to an April report in Nation’s Restaurant News. Traffic at company-owned Chili’s locations was down by 6.2 percent in the most recent quarter.

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.