Chick-fil-A Breaks with The Richards Group, Sends Work to McCann and Erich & Kallman

By Patrick Coffee Comment

Fast food chain Chick-fil-A ended its relationship with The Richards Group after 22 years, picking McCann and the newly launched Erich & Kallman to handle its business after what appear to be two separate reviews.

McCann New York will be the lead agency on brand strategy across the Chick-fil-A business while Erich & Kallman handles project-based work. “This is a great opportunity and a very exciting time to be working with Chick-fil-A as they grow and expand their business nationwide,” said McCann North America president Chris Macdonald.

Sources tell us that Richards founder Stan Richards announced the change in an all-staff meeting this morning. AdAge first broke the news via an exclusive interview with the client’s CMO Jon Bridges, who said of the agency’s iconic cows, “They’re our mascot, if you will. But they aren’t the brand. The brand is bigger than that.”

The Richards Group provided a statement from its founder:

After 22 years of partnership of course we are sad to say goodbye, but we have a lot to be proud of. We never would have guessed that Chick-fil-A would pass KFC as the #1 chicken chain in the country.  Especially with our 1800 stores and their 4660. And we never would have hoped to surpass McDonald’s on a per unit sales basis. And the growth just doesn’t seem to slowing. That’s something both Chick-fil-A and The Richards Group did together.

The cows are core to the brand’s success and certainly we are protective of them — we think we know them pretty well having given birth to and nurtured their unique personalities for more than two decades. We hope the cows live on and continue to thrive with a new family.

When Steve Robinson retired as the only CMO we had ever worked with, and then David Salyers was replaced as vice president, we had a sense things would go in a different direction. That said, we believe that brand is a promise. It’s not a logo, a founder, a CMO, or an ad agency. It should be bigger than all of that. This is a brand we love. And have loved for a very long time. We will continue to love it long after its stewardship has left this building.

Erich & Kallman, which was recently founded by former GS&P creative director Eric Kallman and CP+B executive Steve Erich in San Francisco, beat out five agencies to win project work on the brand. (This was the pitch mentioned in the release announcing the launch of their agency.) Its first campaign, which debuted today, promotes the chain’s new egg white breakfast offering, and Kallman wrote, “We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Chick-fil-A on such a big campaign.”

The Richards Group first won the account in a 1994 review. A recent Adweek piece outlined the history of its relationship with one of its core roster clients and its development of the iconic cows that eventually appeared on billboards across the country.

Chick-fil-A has not yet responded to our requests for comment today.

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