Panda Express Selects Wolfgang as Agency of Record

Its first work will be centered around a new product later this year

Panda Express
Headshot of Erik Oster

Panda Express has selected Venice Beach, California-based creative agency and consultancy Wolfgang as its new agency of record, following a review launched in November.

“For us this partnership means the world,” Wolfgang president Seema Miller said. “It’s just such a fantastic brand and so unique in the marketplace. It’s family owned, they truly care about people … the culture is really human and genuine.”

Panda Express continues to work with Havas Formula on PR and social media, and Pal 8 Media on media buying and planning, which was not part of the review. The brand recently worked with Reach Agency on a project basis for a social-driven campaign timed around Chinese New Year centering around a partnership with artist Jing Wei.

Panda Express invited Omaha-based agency Bailey Lauerman, which has served as its agency of record since 2014, to defend in the review, but the incumbent chose not to participate.

“We have a great relationship with Bailey Lauerman and they’ve been able to help us move forward in a number of different areas over the past few years,” Panda Express executive director of creative and digital business Kevin Holmes said, explaining that if the brand wants to keep growing, now was the time to look at the company’s long-term strategy and get a fresh perspective.

Holmes said that Wolfgang was “a good fit, culturally, professionally and personally” with the brand, also citing Wolfgang’s “ability to focus on our long-term strategic thinking and bring it to life in our everyday communications” as well as having a strong understanding of data, insights and how to connect the brand to consumers.

Wolfgang begins working with Panda Express in March, and its first work for the brand will be centered around a new product in the second half of 2018. Panda Express spent almost $5.4 million on measured media in the U.S. in 2016 and $4 million in the first six months of 2017, according to Kantar Media.

“From a creative standpoint, their positioning as the home of American Chinese food is very rich territory, given the time and given their background, the heritage of the company and the brand,” Wolfgang chief creative officer Colin Jeffrey said, adding the agency will be focusing bring that to life in its work.

The appointment comes in the wake of Wolfgang winning a rebranding assignment for TRUECar this week and being selected as the first agency of record for ice cream brand Halo Top last month.

“Our model is really being received well in the marketplace,” Miller said. “We’ve structured ourselves as a creative consultancy and agency.”

“Our goal is to understand the brand better than anyone else, and I think that’s where the consulting part comes in,” added Wolfgang CEO Mike Geiger.

Following the string of recent account wins, Wolfgang is expanding to fit client needs by “going into managed growth,” Jeffrey explained.

“Any agency is only as good as the talent we have,” added Geiger. “That’s the most time consuming and toughest part, to get the right people for that model.”

@ErikDOster Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.