Supermarket Giant Food Lion Picks Doner as Its New Agency of Record

By Patrick Coffee 

If you grew up anywhere near the American Southeast, then you know Food Lion well: in the 90s, it was the place to go for “Extra Low Prices” at shopping centers throughout the South along with its smaller competitor, Piggly Wiggly.

The Salisbury, North Carolina-based company may be a foreign brand to our Damn Yankee readers (sort of like Wawa to us Southern folk), but Food Lion operates more than 1,100 locations in ten states below the Mason-Dixon. As the chain’s current tagline tells us, “Life’s Better With the Lion.”

Today the company announced that it has awarded its business to MDC’s Doner after a review, effective immediately. That shop’s Detroit office will handle integrated marketing planning, creative campaigns and media planning/buying.

Raleigh’s Hasan + Company managed the review, which began in June without a public announcement. The business had been with Mullen since 2012, with the agency creating ads that challenged efforts by Walmart to encroach upon Food Lion’s business.

Food Lion president Meg Ham cites Doner’s “tremendous experience in the retail sector” in explaining the decision: “Doner will be a strong strategic partner for Food Lion as we continue to deliver on our strategy, Easy, Fresh and Affordable…You Can Count on Food Lion Every day.” Ham also hints at future campaign themes by noting that the chain will seek to “further enhance the emotional connection with our customer.”

Doner president and co-CEO David DeMuth writes: “From the beginning of the review process, we felt strong chemistry with the Food Lion team and that we were a great fit given their aspirations and our retail expertise.”

Regarding those aspirations, Food Lion’s Belgian parent company Delhaize Group announced plans to merge with Dutch retailer Royal Ahold NV (which owns Stop & Shop and Martin’s) this summer right after the Lion launched its agency review. The merger will not take place until 2016, and it has yet to be approved by regulators or shareholders–but if approved, it will create the fourth largest grocery business in the United States. And yes, we are slightly surprised to learn that FL has officially been a Belgian-run brand since well before we were even born!

The news marks a needed win for Doner, which recently lost JC Penney to mcgarrybowen and declined to participate in the AutoTrader creative review after working with that client for 16 years. The agency closed its Atlanta office over the summer and moved all related operations to Detroit but still maintains separate offices in L.A. and Cleveland.

Forthcoming work will focus, at least in part, on the low prices angle. Over the summer, Food Lion announced a new round of in-store signage directing shoppers toward “new ways to save.”

The first ads from Doner could launch as early as Q1.