Ad Age: Steak n Shake seeking new agency

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Two years and at least two advertising agencies after ending a long-term advertising deal, Steak n Shake is reviewing pitches from agencies interested in its business, according to a report from industry publication Advertising Age.

The report, posted on adage.com this week, cited unnamed executives familiar with the review. Officials at Steak n Shake, the Indianapolis-based restaurant chain operating as a unit of Biglari Holdings Inc., did not return a call seeking comment.

Steak n Shake terminated an 18-year relationship with Indianapolis agency Young & Laramore in late 2008, after Texas investor Sardar Biglari took control of the parent company. That November, it signed a $4 million contract with The Varnson Group, a Georgia firm it fired less than three months later.

The two companies ended up in court after Steak n Shake accused Varnson of holding onto proprietary material following the split, but the case was closed in April 2010 following the advertising agency’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing.

Florida-based The Zimmerman Agency stepped into the breach—and still includes some Steak n Shake television commercials in its online portfolio—but Ad Age said no agency is working with the company now. A Zimmerman spokesman said the agency had no comment.

Steak n Shake, which has about 490 restaurants, has been increasing its ad spending in recent years, Ad Age said, citing statistics from WPP's Kantar Media. In 2009, the company spent $17 million, the publication said, up from $13.6 million in 2008 and $12.8 million in 2007.

In 2008, local industry experts pegged the Steak n Shake account as one of the top 10 in the state, estimating it generated a mid- to high-seven-figure sum for Young & Laramore each year.

Y&L's Steak n Shake TV ads became almost as iconic as the restaurant itself. Spots featuring sharp-tongued servers preparing hand-made hamburger patties and hand-dipped milkshakes won the ad agency myriad local and national awards.

CEO Paul Knapp said the local agency has not been invited to pursue the Steak n Shake account as part of the current review.


  • Derivative and Bland - Just like S&S
    The current crop of commercials are lousy. Look how good the same concept worked for Arby's (Oven Mitt!).

    Biglari has ruined a once great hamburger chain by cost cutting and pandering to the lowest common denominator.

    It's current menu and advertising screams "ME TOO!" instead of the little differences (that Y&L exploited expertly) that used to make it a nice change of pace fast food establishment.

  • What were they thinking?

    We live about a mile from the 116th street (Exit 5) and not only have I noticed it, but the doxie sitting on my laps has noticed it: you place your order, you turn the corner, and what do you see? Three large boards extolling different foods and quotes on them. What's wrong with this?

    It's advertising AFTER you've placed your order.

    Every time we place an order, it reminds me of "Dave" (Kevin Kline) where he's forcing his cabinet to cut money for a homeless shelter.

    One his questions has to deal with a PR campaign which is intended to make people feel good about their cars - after they own them.

    I wonder how helpful those boards would be if you were to post "Wednesday's Winning Lottery" numbers on Tuesday night. Except it was *last* Wednesday's numbers.

    If this is all it takes to be an ad agency, sign me up. And I'll charge less.
  • talking hat ???
    Seriously..?? The talking hat ad campaign came from the marketing minds of an ad agency. Must be the same group responsible for the dull witted comic strip Family Circle. I assumed Biglari came came up with this campaign in order to justify his bonus plan.
  • Pathetic
    Yeah. Zimmerman is greeeeeat. Outstanding creative: a waiter talking out of his hat... Just like the memorable brand building they've done with HHGregg since the Pearson team got the boot. Pathetic. Indianapolis creative builds companies' images, out of towners buy them, and then destroy the brands.
  • S&S no longer a Y&L type of account
    Steak & Shake today is nothing like the restaurant chain Young & Laramore created advertising for years ago. Biglari's meglomania leaves little room for true break-through advertising. Now it's all price point advertising. And - those burgers sure have gotten a lot smaller.
  • Why Not Y&L?
    I think it strange that Steak & Shake won't even give Young & Larramore the opportunity to submit a proposal. Maybe there's a business reason, but this sounds just petty, to me -- like they are ineligible because they worked for the former ownership.

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