Hill Holliday Chills Out with Chili’s

By Erik Oster 

Hill Holliday launched a new campaign for Chili’s promoting the chain’s humble origins and laid-back atmosphere.

The approach is exemplified in the 30-second “Chillin’ Since ’75” anthem ad. “Chili’s isn’t the product of some boardroom,” says a voice-over over footage of (presumably?) the first Chili’s location back in 1975 and the song “Slow Ride” by Foghat.

It also wasn’t “started by a bunch of stiffs in suits,” the spot ads, before ending with the “Chillin’ Since ’75” tagline.

Another spot, the 15-second “Grass-Fed Burgers,” ties the brand’s heritage to a new menu offering.


Set to another 70s classic rock staple, “Ooh La La” by the Faces, the spot remarks on how people called the chain’s founders “hamburger hippies” and hints that the name could still apply, given the new “all natural” grass-fed burger line.

The more generic “3 For Me” introduces the “3 For Me $10” deal while extolling the virtue of mustaches.

In addition to the broadcast spots, the campaign will also feature digital components from 360i Atlanta and social components from Dallas’ The Marketing Arm. Presumably these efforts will follow a similar formula in trying to differentiate the fast casual chain from competitors with a nod to its heritage.

“Over time the category advertising, casual dining advertising in particular, started to blend and look very similar,” Chili’s senior vice president, CMO Krista Gibson told AdAge. “Lots of shots of fresh ingredients and lots of shots of food. We just felt like our creative and our campaign wasn’t breaking through.”

“Chili’s actually was started by a couple of guys and some authenticity is never a bad thing in this increasingly manufactured world that we live in,” said Hill Holliday CCO Lance Jensen. “We wanted it to feel like it’s true but it’s also not trying so hard.”

We might suggest something along the lines of “Chili’s: At Least It’s Not Applebee’s.” But then no one ever consults us on copy for good reason.