Shoptalk: I’ll have what he’s having

Here’s how things get settled in Texas: Deli chain creates TV spot to tout sponsorship of television program. Ad agency creates similar spot for restaurant chain. Deli gets mad at restaurant. Deli challenges restaurant to a “dance-off.”

It’s happening right now in Austin. A Chili’s ad by GSD&M looks a lot like a spot done in-house by Schlotzsky’s for PBS’ Austin City Limits. Both feature local musician John Pointer perform ing in a “beat-box” style. And yes, Schlotzsky’s has now challenged Chili’s to a dance-off. (If Chili’s wins, it’s “off the hook.”) “We turned to dancing because it was something attorneys couldn’t be involved in,” Schlotzsky’s president and CEO John C. Wooley tells Shoptalk.

GSD&M spokesman Eric Webber says the agency learned about the similarities only after its Chili’s spot began airing early this month. He would say only that the shop “took steps” to address the issue. But one thing seems to be certain: Those steps weren’t the tango or the cha-cha performed by either GSD&M or its Dallas client.

Schlotzsky’s is also threatening to pitch Chili’s next year, but Webber isn’t worried. “I don’t think we’re in any danger of Chili’s comparing our work and theirs and picking them,” he says.

One way or another, Wooley wants this thing settled through dance, even though he’s never heard of a business dispute being resolved that way. His other proposal: “They could have a bun that dances along the bottom of the Chili’s ads that says, ‘Creative by Schlotzsky’s.’ “