New York firm wins Steak n Shake ad account

March 29, 2011

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.


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