Applebee’s Goes to Grey After a 6-Agency Review

By Erik Oster 

Applebee’s named Grey as its creative agency of record, following a review launched in December. The WPP network’s New York and L.A. offices will handle the account, the latter due to its proximity to parent company DineEquity’s headquarters.

Last month, we learned that the review was down to three finalists, with Grey apparently beating out BBDO and Argonaut to be named the chain’s agency of record, making it the third agency to hold that distinction in the past two years. According to an internal memo from Grey CEO Debby Reiner, 24 agencies responded to the RFP, with a group of six later reduced to the three aforementioned finalists.

Previous lead Barkley won the account after Applebee’s ended its relationship with CP+B in November of 2015. The Kansas City indie shop launched the brand’s “largest marketing initiative to date” with a campaign focused on the chain’s wood-fired steaks last summer, then went through a “staffing adjustment” that reportedly did not decrease its overall headcount.


“We couldn’t be more excited to begin working with Grey,” Applebee’s interim senior vice president of marketing and culinary Jeannine D’Addario said in a statement reported by Adweek. “In addition to their deep experience, capability and creativity, the team at Grey has a solid understanding of Applebee’s evolving consumer, the brand’s legacy and our goals to ignite change and deliver original and compelling work.”

Earlier this month, DineEquity named John Cywinski as Applebee’s new president. He previously spent five years as CMO for the chain, beginning in 2001, and will be tasked with reversing “sluggish” sales. According to Kantar Media, the chain spent around $160 million on measured media in the U.S. last year. No word on whether that total will change.

In today’s memo, Reiner wrote, “We will be responsible for creative development, market strategy and brand positioning, crafting engaging campaigns that resonate with their customers nationally. Our integrated communications effort will launch in July.”

“We’ll celebrate after the blizzard,” she added.