Grey Wins Red Lobster

Grey has won lead creative duties on Red Lobster after a review, the WPP Group shop has confirmed.

Four agencies pitched the business, but in the end the contest was between Grey and Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi, according to sources. Each shop pursued the account from its New York office.

Major media spending on the brand totaled more than $115 million last year, according to Nielsen. That figure does not include online spending.

Red Lobster’s parent company is Darden Restaurants. With the win, Grey now handles three of Darden’s dining brands: Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Red Lobster.

“We are deeply proud of our partnership with Darden and the tremendous vote of confidence Red Lobster has given Grey by entrusting us with this premier brand,” said Jim Heekin, worldwide CEO of Grey Group.

Red Lobster vp of marketing Salli Setta attributed the selection to Grey’s “superb creativity, strategic thinking, integrated capabilities and a deep understanding of the casual dining marketplace.”

Grey succeeds independent The Richards Group in Dallas, which had handled the business since 2004. Richards also handled media planning duties, but that’s not part of Grey’s assignment. The incumbent did not defend.

Agency presentations took place Aug. 2 and 3 at the client’s headquarters in Orlando, Fla., sources said previously. The other shops that presented were WPP’s Ogilvy & Mather in New York and Interpublic Group’s Draftfcb in Chicago. The client cut to Grey and Saatchi last week.

Media buying duties were not in play and remain at Publicis Groupe’s Zenith Media in New York. Pile + Co. in Boston managed the process.

Darden’s other dining chains include The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze and Seasons 52.