Darden Restaurants, Inc.

Author:Robert Schnakenberg, Kevin Teague
Pages:395-398
 
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5900 Lake Ellenor Drive

Orlando, Florida 32809

USA

Telephone: (407) 245-4000

Fax: (407) 245-4000

Web site: www.redlobster.com

LIFE ON LAND IS DRY CAMPAIGN
OVERVIEW

Darden Restaurants, the largest casual-dining restaurant group in the world, operated three distinct restaurant concepts: the Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze, and Red Lobster. With about 700 locations, Red Lobster was the nation's leading full-service seafood restaurant chain, offering fresh seafood at moderate prices. Red Lobster had a disappointing year in 1997, with same-store sales falling 3.9 percent on average unit sales of $2.6 million. Hoping to increase sales and revitalize the Red Lobster brand, Darden Restaurants released its "Life on Land Is Dry" campaign.

Created by the ad agency Euro RSCG Tatham, the $80 million radio and television campaign began in October 1997 and portrayed the seafood restaurant as an escape from life's dry daily routine. To reinforce the slogan, Euro RSCG Tatham created spots that contrasted images of dry, barren landscapes with images of couples and families frolicking at the seashore. The new campaign—which began with television spots during programs like the Major League Baseball playoffs and prime-time programs Friends and 3rd Rock from the Sun—carried the theme "Life on Land Is Dry." The commercials, together with ancillary marketing changes like new menus and the addition of an elevated bar to some restaurants, were designed to create a more energetic personality for the Red Lobster chain. The campaign ended in mid-2000.

"Life on Land Is Dry" marked a strategy shift for Red Lobster. The campaign promoted Red Lobster as a fun-loving restaurant instead of promoting the chain's prices, selection, or food quality. The strategy proved to be effective. During the campaign's second year Red Lobster reported double-digit gains in same-store sales for the first time in nearly a decade.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Red Lobster was a pioneer in television advertising among casual-dining chains, putting commercials on the public airwaves long before similar chains such as Chili's, Bennigan's, and T.G.I. Friday's joined the fray. For many years Red Lobster advertisements employed the tagline "Red Lobster for the Seafood Lover in You," developed by its longtime partner Grey Advertising, one of the world's largest ad agencies with billings of more than $5 billion. Grey Advertising's other accounts included Cover Girl makeup, Pantene shampoo, and Kool-Aid fruit drink.

Over time, however, casual-dining competition grew keener, with a host of clever ads vying for the attention of consumers. As Red Lobster's sales began to decline in the mid-1990s, Grey Advertising tried to come up with a new approach that would differentiate the seafood chain

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from its rivals. In 1997 the agency created a campaign for Red Lobster that provided more emphasis on fresh seafood. The slogan was "Prepared so fresh you can taste it." This campaign reflected Red Lobster's desire to expand its audience not only to those looking for lobster and shrimp but also to people who enjoyed fresh fish. It did not, however, resonate with consumers. "That wasn't the personality we were looking for," Red Lobster spokesman Andrew Dun said. "In today's restaurant world, having a fresh product isn't enough to be differentiated."

In the first quarter of 1997 Red Lobster sales of $475.3 million were about 1 percent below the same period a year earlier. Same-store sales, a measure that excluded new and closed outlets, were down 3.6 percent. The chain worked feverishly to combat the sales slump by introducing a new menu, lowering prices, and sinking more money into employee training to ensure that servers and managers understood the new menu.

None of this seemed to work, however, and in the summer of 1997 Darden Restaurants announced it would review its Red Lobster advertising and consider switching agencies. Prominent ad agencies were asked to submit proposals as part of the...

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