Panda Express Chooses The Many as Creative Agency of Record

American-Chinese restaurant chain has been hit by Covid-19

panda express buffet
Panda Express largely relies on mall foot traffic, meaning it's been hit hard during the pandemic. Getty Images
Headshot of Minda Smiley

Panda Express has selected Los Angeles-based The Many as its creative agency of record in the U.S.

The move ends the chain’s relationship with Wolfgang, a creative consultancy and agency also based in Los Angeles. Wolfgang won the account in 2018 following a review.

“It’s never easy to lose a client, especially during a pandemic,” said Mike Geiger, co-founder and CEO of Wolfgang, pointing out that the agency helped Panda Express move up four spots year-over-year on Technomic’s annual chain restaurant report, which ranks companies by U.S. sales.

“During our tenure we developed new brand positioning and some highly effective campaigns. In the end, our differing opinions regarding the creative process put an end to our relationship,” he added.

The American-Chinese restaurant empire—which has more than 2,200 locations globally—spent $8.7 million on paid media in the U.S. last year, according to Kantar, which doesn’t track spending on social channels. Like many businesses, its sales have taken a hit due to the lockdowns and closures spurred by the coronavirus. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal last month, co-CEO Peggy Cherng said sales were down 15% as of late May compared to prior years.

According to The Many, it will lead the 37-year-old brand’s overall marketing communications strategy in the U.S. while ensuring “consistency and collaboration” across agency partners. Pal 8 Media handles media planning and buying for Panda Express, while Evolution Bureau serves as its digital agency and Havas Formula leads PR. It works with Sonnenberg Creative on digital production.

The independent agency won the account following a review that took place virtually due to coronavirus. Michelle Wong of M. Wong Consulting led the review.

“The Many shares our similar values and beliefs rooted in building a positive and inspiring people-focused culture,” said Kevin Holmes, executive director of marketing communications at Panda Express, in a statement. “We are impressed by their passion for our brand and strategic approach to campaign development focused on collaboration and insights, not to mention their deep experience in the food and beverage category.”

Other brands The Many has worked with include Spindrift, Chambord, Qdoba and Jägermeister. The agency, which was founded in 2010, has had its fair share of ups and downs this year. In March, it let go of 15 employees, or 18% of staff, in response to “coronavirus-related effects” on the industry.

Even so, it’s managed to win a few pieces of business in recent months. In May, it was named “lead integrated agency of record” for canned tuna brand Bumble Bee. Last month, The Many was named agency of record for Budget Blinds.

@Minda_Smiley Minda Smiley is an agencies reporter at Adweek.