It seems that I’ve been writing a lot about the restaurant business lately. Perhaps that’s because you have to be nuts to open a restaurant even in the best of times, and so restaurateurs aren’t especially worried about launching into a down economy.
In fact, so many restaurants continue to open their doors in the Twin Cities that the eternal marketing bugaboo, “breaking through the clutter,” is in play. If that’s the case, then Richard D’Amico was smart to hire the Minneapolis agency Brew to promote his new D’Amico Kitchen at the Chambers Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.
Bruce Bildsten, partner and creative director at Brew, is one of several team members who came from Fallon Worldwide, where they created one of the most revolutionary ad campaigns of the past quarter-century. BMW Films showed how to use the Web in a completely new way and spawned countless imitators.
Brew’s campaign for D’Amico Kitchen is based on a recognition of the current pop interest in cooking and food.
“There’s so much interest in culinary topics, especially with the people who influence the restaurant scene, the foodies,” Bildsten said. “And there’s been a huge explosion in culinary shows: The Food Network, Travel Channel, Andrew Zimmern’s show.” (I’d add “Top Chef” on Bravo and the recent movie “Julie & Julia.”)
Cameras in the kitchen
The team’s first thought was to make a documentary on the run-up to the opening, but there wasn’t enough time. They decided instead to install video cameras in the kitchen and stream a live video feed every night in prime cooking time from 7:30–10 p.m. The videos can be viewed online and onscreen in the hotel lobby. Brew is also producing weekly video blogs on cooking topics with D’Amico chef Johnny Occhiato.
Originally, the idea was to stream high-def video to a billboard D’Amico owns on Hennepin Avenue in Uptown. But technical issues and city restrictions on digital billboards made that a non-starter.
These days, it’s easy to think that everyone wants to be a reality star — but surprisingly, the D’Amico kitchen staff took some convincing before they agreed to let the cameras in. In part to ease those concerns, the video feed has no sound.
“It’s not a documentary — it’s a peek inside,” Bildsten said. “It wasn’t intended to be something people would spend a lot of time with. It makes a statement that we’re proud of what happens in our kitchen, and we think it will interest you. We look on the cameras as something to whet people’s appetites.
“For a restaurant, it’s all about building buzz in the beginning, and this helped them do that.”
Though new media have taken center stage, the D’Amico campaign includes print ads, outdoor and public relations.
“There are lots of pontificators out there who say everything has changed,” Bildsten said. “I think there’s still a role for mass media and traditional advertising. But overall, I think the palette is broader. The means a marketer needs to use to reach their audiences has to be broader.
“Mass media isn’t dying, but it’s changing. It’s moving around. To me, that’s not scary — it’s exciting.”