New York firm wins Steak n Shake ad account

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Steak n Shake has selected New York-based Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners as agency of record for its $18 million advertising account, according to industry publication Advertising Age.

The appointment ends a period of uncertainty for the marketing efforts of the Indianapolis-based restaurant chain, which had gone two years without a lead agency.

Steak n Shake had used two firms since terminating 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. Steak n Shake accused Varnson of holding onto proprietary material following the split, and the two companies took their dispute to court. The case was closed in April 2010 following the advertising agency’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing.

Florida-based The Zimmerman Agency then stepped in temporarily.

Steak n Shake confirmed Kirshenbaum won the review but declined to comment further, Ad Age said.

Steak n Shake, which has about 490 restaurants, has been increasing its ad spending in recent years, Ad Age said, citing statistics from Kantar Media. In 2010, the company spent $17.7 million, the publication said, up from $17 million in 2009. It spent $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 television 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.


  • Cliched?
    Cliched? Really? Assuming you even know what the word means, can you substantiate? I'm not aware that "bean crock" (for example) is an overused, trite phrase....
  • Yeah yeah
    Hey, Steak n' Shake never even trademarked "Steakburgers" after 50 years, and lost incredibly in court when they tried to pursue that one. Tasty burgers and malts... but not great leadership.

    And let's face it: Y&L ads were cliched and uninspired for 20 years.

    But hey -- As long as they don't use that Indiana Members Credit Union music. If I hear that off-key, digitized trumpet/saxophone squelch once more... I swear...
  • Trainwreck
    As clients go, this is a trainwreck waiting to happen - again!

    I agree that the over/under is certainly less than a year.

    The talking hat - stupid!!

    But that being said...the brand value is about as bad right now as Biglari's ego is at being out of control.

    Given the fact that the account is in Indiana, the NY agency will throw a lot of junior account execs at this business and pay it lip service or else they'll get fired for the excessing billing that their high hourly rate will no doubt create for the client.

    Either way, stay tuned. It won't be pretty.
  • I miss 'em
    I sure miss those Y&L ads. Always looked forward to a new one popping up. They were smart and funny. That's hard to accomplish in 15 seconds.
  • Correction
    The Varnson - Steak n shake lawsuit is not over - on hiatus for a bit - but it is still winding its way through court.
  • Double Whammy
    Bean Counters take over a company.
    Simultaneously, Bean Counters "save money" by reducing the quality of the product, and by dumbing down the advertising.

    Result: Bean Counters blame the resulting sales losses on the ad agencies, the local store managers, and a "fickle" public.

    Been there, seen that.
    (A retired ad guy from Texas.)
  • Zimmerman Creative Meeting
    A typical Zimmerman Agency creative session.

    10am: "OK creatives, what d'ya got for the new accounts we just bamboozled into hiring us?"

    Creative Team 1: "For the new tire account we've come up with shiny Mr. Talking Hubcap who always gets dizzy!!!"

    Acount team: "Bravo, that's terrific!"

    Creative Team 2: "For the new bank account, we'd like to introduce - The Talking Pile of Money Man using a retro Clutch Cargo CARTOON animation technique!!!"

    Account team: "Oh wow, that's totally break through!"

    Creative Team 3: "Last but not least, for the Italian restaurant chain here's Guido the Talking Cannoli! And get this, he only speaks Italian!"

    Account Team: "Inspired. Award-winning! The client should love this!"

    10:07am: Meeting adjourned
  • Win is not the right word to use
    The ongoing misadventures of the Steak n' Shake agency search reminds me of another Indiana based food account who, after new owners took over and fired the long time agency, jumped from agency to agency leaving a trail of unpaid bills, broken promises and ho-hum advertising that dumbed down the unique brand it once owned.

    Las Vegas over/under line on KB's time of service on the S&S account is probably 6+/- months. I'm still surprised that KB would even pitch the S&S acount. They must really need new business - any new business.
  • Ironic, no?
    Heh. Note the irony, that the Zimmerman Agency has been handling both HH Gregg and Steak n Shake lately, wrecking both brand images. Nice job, fellas. That's a real track record.
    • Brand wreckage
      The "in your hat" campaign is about as embarrassing a concept as I've seen since the Arby's Oven Mitt. A shame that the first thing new investors do is decide that us lowly Hoosier hicks in advertising can't possibly come up with successful, sophisticated, or more to the point, effective advertising. In two years out of towners wrecked the Steak n Shake brand that Young & Laramore spent years creating. Likewise, who remembers anything about HH Gregg's campaign since it was yanked from Pearson's agency, where they crafted Gregg's image with huge success for almost 20 years?
    • Ridiculous
      They had a brand and now they have -- what? All-u-can-eat pancakes? Good luck to KB as they try to rebuild what Y&L had so skillfully crafted.

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