Allied Domecq PLC

Author:Kevin Teague

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The Pavilions

Bridgwater Rd.

Bristol, BS13 8AR

United Kingdom

Telephone: 44 117 9785000

Fax: 44 117 9785300

Web site:


Dunkin' Donuts, the wholly owned subsidiary of the United Kingdom-based Allied Domecq PLC, reigned in 2000 as the world's largest coffee-and-baked-goods chain. With 3,500 outlets and $2 billion in annual sales, the quick-service restaurant was outperforming competitors such as Starbucks Coffee Company and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Inc. Even though Starbucks and Krispy Kreme were rising in popularity, executives at Dunkin' Donuts remained undaunted. They believed that Dunkin' Donuts' customers preferred the chain's low prices and rapidly prepared drinks, such as its Dunkin' Donuts Dunkaccino, an adaptation of a café mocha. After a survey conducted by the ad agency Hill, Holliday, Connors & Cosmopulos of Boston revealed that most customers considered Dunkin' Donuts a respite from their everyday anxieties, Dunkin' Donuts released its "Loosen Up a Little" campaign to brand its stores as a place to relax.

The $60 million campaign was created by Hill, Holliday, Connors & Cosmopulos (often referred to as Hill Holliday) and targeted several different demographics. It first appeared during Labor Day weekend in 2000. The campaign's television, radio, outdoor, and print advertisements suggested that its audience "Loosen Up a Little" with Dunkin' Donuts. One spot featured a woman smearing cream cheese in the shape of a smiley face on a high-strung businessman's jacket. In another spot a man removed his toupee during a coffee break, while in a different spot a businessman licked the jelly filling from his tie. Posters were hung inside elevators in office buildings throughout New England. The campaign included a fantasy-sports promotion that offered encounters with professional athletes such as the football linebacker Ted Johnson of the New England Patriots. Commercials for the campaign aired across major U.S. markets during the season premieres of the hit TV shows ER, Friends, and Law & Order.

"Loosen Up a Little" ended prematurely in August 2002 because Dunkin' Donuts executives considered the tagline "Loosen Up a Little" to be inappropriate for the advertising climate following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Nonetheless, the campaign helped Dunkin' Donuts generate more than $2.7 billion in sales for the 2001 fiscal year and record a 7 percent sales growth for 2002. It also earned a plethora of awards at the 2002 Francis W. Hatch Awards, which recognized New England's best ad campaigns.


Founded in 1950, Dunkin' Donuts grew to become a leading quick-service restaurant on the East Coast. One of the chain's longest-running campaigns, created by the ad agency

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Ally & Gargano, New York, featured "Fred the baker," played by actor Michael Vale. The 15-year campaign used more than 200 spots, and in many Fred uttered the refrain "Time to make the doughnuts" early in the morning.

In 1989, while that campaign was underway, Dunkin' Donuts was purchased by Allied Domecq, the world's second-largest alcohol distiller. Dunkin' Donuts was not the only quick-service restaurant owned by the British enterprise. Allied Domecq had also acquired the ice-cream giant Baskin-Robbins and the sandwich chain Togo's Eateries. In 1997, when Dunkin' Donuts began expanding its offerings beyond just doughnuts and drip coffee, the chain ended its "Fred the Baker" campaign. New menu items helped Dunkin' Donuts increase sales by 10 percent in 1998. That same year Dunkin' Donuts awarded its advertising account to Hill, Holliday, Connors &amp...

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