Applebee’s Looking for a New Lead Agency After One Year with Barkley

By Patrick Coffee 

The Applebee’s chain has launched its second creative agency review in 13 months after moving from CP+B to Barkley exactly one year ago.

In November of 2015, the brand’s parent company DineEquity announced that it would split with CP+B after three years as part of a reported effort to “[take] the Applebee’s brand in a new direction [with] fresh thinking and new approaches.” The chain said it would be talking to other shops in 2016 but quickly went with Barkley over FCB Chicago as CP+B’s L.A. office parted with 4% of its staff.

Barkley then led Applebee’s biggest single campaign to date as DineEquity sought to relaunch the brand with a $75 million effort focusing on wood-fired steaks. Over the summer, the shop also hired Kyle Jones away from VB&P to run the account.

A Barkley spokesperson deferred to the client, which provided the following statement:

“Applebee’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill has chosen Select Resources International (SRI) to assist with its search for a new creative agency for its advertising business. While Barkley has proven themselves to be creative and valuable partners, Applebee’s felt the time was right to make a creative shift given the evolving restaurant landscape. This in no way impacts the relationships with our other long-standing agency partners in the marketing mix. Together, we have an incredible opportunity to energize this iconic brand, and we’re excited to find the best creative partner for the journey. SRI will handle all logistics of the creative agency search for Applebee’s.”

Compare that to the quote from one year ago:

“CP+B has been a valued creative partner during our three years together, but we’re taking the Applebee’s brand in a new direction and believe our plans would benefit from fresh thinking and new approaches.”

According to a reliable source, the company has struggled to differentiate itself as more Americans move their spending away from big-name chains. Barkley has counted Applebee’s as a client since 2012, when it began handling menu and in-store experience work; it will retain that portion of the business after its creative AOR contract ends.