Grey’s First Work for Applebee’s Promotes Its ‘Topped and Loaded’ Menu

By Erik Oster 

Back in March, Applebee’s named Grey as its creative agency of record, following a review launched in December which initially included six agencies and eventually came down to finalists Grey, BBDO San Francsico and Argonaut San Francisco. The same month, parent company DineEquity named John Cywinski as Applebee’s new president. Prior to the review, the account was handled by Kansas City-based agency, after Applebee’s ended its relationship with CP+B in November of 2015.

Last week, Grey launched what amounts to its first work for the client with a series of ads promoting the casual dining chain’s new “Topped and Loaded” menu.

An agency spokesperson confirmed that Grey had worked on the ads, explaining that the client requested the agency deliver a promotion for the new “Topped and Loaded” menu and the agency obliged. They added that Grey’ first full brand campaign for Applebee’s is expected this fall.


Given what was undoubtedly a quick turnaround timeframe, it’s perhaps to be expected that the resulting creative has some issues.

The campaign amounts to three variations riffing off the same basic ad. A man and a woman are sitting at Applebee’s when she asks what’s up with the new “Topped and Loaded” menu. That seems a fair question, given it is a recent introduction. However, the man seems at once perplexed and oddly disdainful, responding that it’s “an American favorite on top of an American favorite, Alice.”

That description then gets a series of varying comparisons in the different ads. In the above “Presidents,” he claims, “It’s like Abraham Lincoln on top of George Washington” (We’re not going to comment on that one…), while other versions imagine double “Holidays” or a rollercoaster rodeo.

It’s hard to tell what, if anything, the spots say about what Grey’s approach will be on its first full brand campaign this fall.

DineEquity is devoting a significant media investment to promoting AppleBee’s new offerings. It spent $3.1 million on national broadcast placement for the spots last week, the entirety of its national broadcast placement budget for the week. That was good enough for fourth on the list of last week’s list of top spenders on national broadcast placement for new creative. The campaign also includes regional TV buys, online video, internet and mobile display ads.

The DineEquity casual dining chain has gone through a rough period lately. In February, a month before Grey was brought on as creative agency of record, longtime DineEquity CEO Julia Stewart left the company amidst declining sales for Applebee’s.