TGI Friday’s Creative, Media Duties Are in Review

Publicis in Mid-America is gearing up to defend its $40 million TGI Friday’s account.

The Dallas shop, which has held the account since 1995, has no intention of throwing in the towel. “We intend to vigorously defend the business,” said Mark Bateman, president of Publicis in Dallas.

TGI Friday’s, which announced its marketing business was going into review last week, will issue requests for proposals to agencies nationwide later this month.

Los Angeles-based Select Resources International has been retained to conduct the search.

SRI representative Catherine Bension said the consultancy was drawing up a list of qualifications. “[The client] doesn’t seem to be tied to geographic considerations,” she said. “They are looking for the absolute best agency.”

The account will include both the creative and media portions of the restaurant chain’s business. A decision is expected by year’s end.

Vice president of marketing Tom Koenigsberg is managing the review on the client side; he could not be reached for comment. Koenigsberg was promoted to his current position late last month after his predecessor, John Gilbert, left to assume an executive post at KFC.

Bateman expressed little surprise at the client’s decision to initiate a review. It comes at a time when full-service casual dining chains as a category are suffering sales declines.

Eateries such as Friday’s, Applebee’s, Chili’s and Ruby Tuesday were all experiencing single-digit sales declines when the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks drove them further down, to an estimated 10-15 percent below 2000 levels.

Among the challenges facing the winner is an ongoing repositioning at Friday’s, which has added organic and “healthy” fare to its menu.

Publicis introduced the first product in the new line with an eight-spot, $15 million campaign for the 100% Natural Angus Burger. In one TV ad, a suburbanite finds a burger tossed on his lawn in place of the morning paper.

Dallas-based TGI Friday’s is a division of Carlson Restaurants Worldwide.