After splitting US/Canada agency review, DQ picks Publicis

January 24, 2013  |  Chris Powell  |  Comments

Hungry for market share, DQ hires Canadian agency for North American approach

Dairy Queen Canada has named Publicis Canada its new advertising agency of record after a review that launched in September.

Publicis replaces Grey New York, which had worked on the business for more than 10 years (it took over the Canadian business from Grey Canada about two years ago).

“It was a great relationship, we drove the business and had great results, but it’s been a long time and we wanted to get some different thinking on the brand,” said Denise Hutton, vice-president of marketing for Dairy Queen.

The quick-service restaurant chain’s U.S. division has also named Barkley, an independent agency located in Kansas City, as its American AOR. A total of 10 agencies were shortlisted in the two countries, said Hutton.

The Minneapolis-based company initially tried to have U.S. agencies partner with Canadian agencies in the review, but the approach was abandoned early on. “What we felt is that some of the Canadian partners that the U.S. agencies partnered with probably weren’t our best choice, so we separated the pitch,” said Hutton. “We decided to do a completely independent search for a Canadian agency as opposed to forcing a relationship through one of the U.S. partnerships.”

Despite separate reviews, future creative developed by Publicis and Barkley will share common elements, said Hutton. “We will all work very closely together as we go down and define what that is,” she said. “We shoot as a North American system, so everything that we do, we do together.”

Dairy Queen selected Publicis because of its strength in retail marketing, said Hutton. “They completely understand the retail environment and what it takes to work in a category that is extremely competitive,” she said. “They’re very much used to the fast-paced environment… and their strategic abilities really were great.”

The company’s media assignment remains with MediaCom Canada.

Dairy Queen is currently developing a new creative approach that will debut in mid-2013. It will abandon the “DQ something different” positioning and animated lips and tongue that has been featured in its marketing for several years.

In 2012, DQ saw a 3% rise in same-store sales and has moved into the top five QSR chains in Canada.

Dairy Queen operates 570 (primarily street-level) locations and another 135 Orange Julius locations from coast to coast. But the company said it is still perceived differently across the country. In B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan, which account for more than 60% of the chain’s annual sales, Dairy Queen is associated with food. Consumers in Ontario, meanwhile, tend to associate the brand with sweet treats like its signature Blizzard product.

One of the strategies moving forward, said Hutton, is to strengthen Dairy Queen’s position as a food restaurant in Ontario and Quebec, “definitely where we have opportunity from a growth perspective.”

Hutton said she would like to see Dairy Queen crack the top three QSR chains, although she acknowledged the difficulty of competing against corporate giants like McDonald’s.

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