FoodNetworkAddict, a popular Food Network blogger, was anonymously tipped that Guy Fieri will no longer act as TGI Friday's spokesman (blog post). To date, there have been no formal announcements one way or the other, but here's the background on the story.
In March of 2009, Carlson Restaurants, the parent company of TGI Friday's, reached out to six to eight agencies in a review of creative and media duties on its brand. The current company is (was?) Interpublic Group's Deutsch/LA in Marina del Rey, CA, who held the account since 2003 and is (was?) the one behind getting Guy Fieri on board as spokesman for TGI Friday's.
Here's a video of Guy Fieri's commercial for TGI Friday, used in 2009.
The Food Network's popular show, Ultimate Recipe Showdown, receives major support from TGI Friday's - winners of the home-cook competitions are awarded $25,000 and their recipe on the restaurant's menu. In exchange for this generous support, the Food Network cross-advertised with the chain, and Fieri signed on as spokesman.
Here's a video from Ultimate Recipe Showdown.
In early May, four agencies made final presentations to Carlson Restaurants, bidding for the client's business. The finalists were Publicis Groupe's Publicis in New York, The Martin Agency in Richmond, VA, Doner in Southfield, MI, and Cramer-Krasselt in Chicago.
The selection was expected the week of May 11, 2009, but if it was announced, I didn't hear about it.
According to both articles cited above, TGI Friday's spent about $87 million in U.S. media last year (not including online spending), and $98 million in 2007.
As much as I respect FoodNetworkAddict (and I do; he does fine work), I will criticize him for conjecturing the TMZ video had anything to do with this decision. The idea is ludicrous and absurd; business is business, bad press is good press, and the video's statements are oft mis-transcribed and sensationalized anyway. The idea that any spokesman would only eat at the one restaurant for whom he speaks is unreasonable at the least.
More to the point, TGI Friday's is currently embroiled in one of the most fierce price wars with other chain restaurants in recent memory. Franchise owners are "eating their own lunch" with the current $5 sandwiches and salads campaign. And Friday's isn't alone - similar reduced-priced and hence low-profit meals are being offered at Applebee's, Ruby Tuesday and so many others.
It's tough times out there, folks!
More news later as I hear of it.
Ultimate Recipe Showdown Season 3 is due to tape late this summer or early fall. Expect it to air in November or December of 2009.
Guy Fieri interview on Ultimate Recipe Showdown
Critique of TGIF tie-in with Food Network and URS-2
Ultimate Recipe Showdown - Comfort Food
News Spot and Feedback from URS