Chili’s Concludes Review by Handing Project Assignment to OKRP

By Erik Oster 

Back in May, Brinker International casual dining chain Chili’s Bar and Grill put its advertising account in review, following a decade with Hill Holliday. Parties with direct knowledge of the matter told Adweek the chain would not seek another agency of record but instead work with agencies on a project basis.

Chili’s has now concluded its review, awarding an advertising project to O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul.

“Chili’s is the leader in the enduring bar and grill category whose ‘sea of sameness’ menu and advertising models are increasingly broken,” Chili’s executive vice president, chief marketing and innovation officer Steve Provost, who took that role in March after seven years with Brinker sister brand Maggiano’s Little Italy, explained in a statement. “We need to reinvest and differentiate our food and then find creative communication to convince Chili’s lovers and former Chili’s lovers to reconsider us, in a world where guests are deluged every day with promises of ‘better and ‘new.'”

“After a quick, but intensive search process, we found an agency, OKRP, that is reinventing the enduring model in their business and we felt that they are the right partner in this challenge,” he continued. “OKRP knows the rules of food advertising in order to break the rules of food advertising. They have demonstrated a quick understanding of our business, and how to connect with consumers with humor and humanity. Their scrappy, creative energy is just what we need to move our brand forward today.”

“Chili’s is an iconic brand in a category we know and love,” added OKRP CEO Tom O’Keefe. “We do our best work with brands challenging the business conventions of the day and are very excited to be working with Chili’s in its next chapter of growth.”

The agency’s new campaign for the brand is expected to launch in the early fall and run through the second quarter of 2018. Chili’s spent around $129 million on measured media domestically last year, according to Kantar Media.

OKRP’s appointment follows an agency change at another struggling casual dining chain which also plans to launch a new campaign this fall.

In March, DineEquity brand Applebee’s selected Grey as its creative agency of record, concluding a review launched in December. Grey’s first work for the client, a campaign introducing the chain’s new “Topped and Loaded” menu, debuted last week. The agency’s first major brand campaign for Applebee’s is expected this fall.