Monthly Archives: September 2015

Why Most Restaurants Need a Better Creative Agency


We all know the importance of breakthrough creative advertising for any brand or category. In the sea of sameness that is the restaurant category, an effective ad campaign is what often separates the industry leaders from the pack.

Today, the restaurant landscape consists of a handful of “haves” and then, hundreds of “have-nots.” The haves are killing the competition: maintaining significant margins, reporting consistent growth and sales increases, attracting strong franchisees and of course, building brand preference and driving volume simultaneously. The have-nots are giving away food (“2 for $20,” etc.), reporting consecutive quarters in the red and struggling to keep their franchisees and/or investment partners at bay.

Millward Brown recently ran a study on award-winning creative work and determined that it is 2,000 times more likely to be effective. I know that marketers generally tend to be leery of creative awards; but, strong creative works.

You can pretty much tell who the haves and have-nots are just by watching TV. Chipotle, Panera, Taco Bell, Subway and Popeye’s are a few restaurant brands killing the competition with breakthrough creative. Particularly impressive are the effects of recent strong creative on formerly stale, struggling brands like Arby’s and Church’s Chicken.

And, the have-nots? Just look at the new McDonald’s work, or Wendy’s, or Burger King’s or Olive Garden’s or Golden Corral’s. Is it bad? No, it’s worse — it’s mediocre. And it all looks the same.

7 tell-tale signs you need a better creative agency:

  • Your ads look and sound like everyone else in the category (wet meat, steaming vegetables, price/item, LTO-message only) and lack strong, memorable creative concepts
  • Your agency has stopped constantly bringing fresh ideas to you; they’ve lost enthusiasm for your business
  • Your agency has continuing employee turnover on your account, particularly in the creative department
  • Your Social Media/Digital Content/Community Management marketing doesn’t translate or connect to sales increases
  • And, of course, you are struggling to maintain strong margins because you are giving food away
  • You system’s unit growth has ceased
  • Same-store sales are flat

Sometimes, even great creative agencies like Wieden + Kennedy and CP+B drop the ball — as they have recently with KFC and Applebee’s respectively. The reason? It’s hard (really hard) to cram a memorable creative concept into the restaurant commercial “formula.” You’ve got to show the food, you’ve got to show the deal…that only gives you a few precious seconds to execute a strong concept as well. I believe this makes the restaurant category the most challenging creatively.

The New Agency Website: What’s working now?

So this is the digital age. You are not just an ad agency anymore. You are now a hybrid, tradigital, Unknown-2
media agnostic, nimble, agile, curating creator of commercial content
. Good for you. Why does your website still look like an ad agency’s?

It’s no great insight that your company’s single most important piece of identity is your website. It’s where you send prospects, clients, search consultants, headhunters and potential employees to learn more about you and what you do. It’s where Google sends anyone who searches your name. It’s probably the most important piece of communications you will ever create. I spend most of my waking life looking at these things. Why am I mostly underwhelmed?

Recently, an old friend called to say he was re-doing his agency’s site and asked if I had any tips. This man, mind you, has one of the most startling imaginations of any creative I have worked with in my 27 years in advertising. In short, a great new site takes a great imagination. So he’s off to a good start. Make sure you appoint your most imaginative minds to your new site. The old site was a “business tool.” The new site is much more than that. It’s your digital persona.

UnknownThe trap is to talk to yourselves. Don’t fall in it. I’ve looked at agency sites from every possible angle: with clients, as a search consultant, as a headhunter, as a recruit and as a biz dev person. I’ve observed what causes your targets to keep clicking (the new site) or opt out (the old site).

Old site:

  • Themeless — No connection of your positioning to any mission, purpose or specialty
  • Words — “About us”…riddled with clichés and pompous agency-speak
  • Pictures — Ads, head shots, office space, ping-pong tables, posers posing for “candid” photos
  • Case studies — “When Acme Corporation came to us, boy were they up shit’s creek. We saved the day with our trademarked processes, brilliant insights and (mediocre) creative, and here’s how…”
  • Bios — “Joe has won every imaginable award on the planet. He loves dogs and look how handsome he is.”
  • TV spots — usually the only moving thing on the site besides that unsettling download onto the landing page
  • CTA — “What are you waiting for? Fill out this generic form below”

New Site:

  • Theme — The site makes an immediate statement and emotional connection to what the agency brand stands for
  • Video — The connection is made through a short agency video that connects the agency’s positioning with the core values of your targets. This is the first thing that comes up front & center on your landing page.
  • Infographics — The most effective way to explain who, you are, what you do and why you do it. “The agency in 60 seconds” is a better link to these than “About us”
  • Creative showcase — don’t “let the work speak for itself”
  • Case studies — 1 minute videos or infographic, beautifully designed
  • Bios — 30-second videos. A great creative opportunity
  • CTA — Again, a video. Close me; in a brilliantly unique & entertaining way.

Now they want to learn more about you. People don’t read websites until they want to buy. They look. They watch. They share. This is the digital age, lest we forget.