El Pollo Loco Picks San Diego’s Vitro as Agency of Record

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An El Pollo Loco restaurant. Courtesy of the company

By Rick Griffin

San Diego-based creative agency Vitro has been named the creative agency of record for El Pollo Loco, the Costa Mesa-based grilled chicken fast-food chain.

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Vitro will be responsible for overseeing integrated communications across broadcast, digital, radio and out-of-home, as well as research, strategy and production. AAR Partners, a national agency search consultancy, managed the agency search process. The El Pollo Loco account previously had been with Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners since 2012, after Goodness Mfg. held the account for less than a year.

“Vitro’s strong vision and creative approach to driving brand distinctiveness and restaurant level performance made them an exciting choice for us,” said El Pollo Loco chief marketing officer Ed Valle in a statement. “Vitro is known across the industry for their innovative business solutions and we are looking forward to working together as we team up to create programs that engage our consumers and continue to drive awareness of our brand.”

“We couldn’t be happier and more excited about the opportunity to work with El Pollo Loco,” said Vitro CEO Tom Sullivan. “They are such an iconic brand with a unique story to tell. Plus, they have the dual benefit of providing some seriously great food and actually cooking in their kitchens. So, getting the chance to help shape the brand’s future today is an absolute thrill.”

El Pollo Loco operates more than 445 company-owned and franchised restaurants in Arizona, California, Nevada, Texas and Utah. The El Pollo Loco announcement follows other recent Vitro new account news, including winning Adidas Golf in June, as well as home smart company Vivint and Caribou Coffee in March. Vitro offers full-service advertising and marketing capabilities.

San Diego Press Club Announces Special Awards

The San Diego Press Club will present three special awards at its 43rd annual Excellence in Journalism program on Tuesday, Oct. 25.

Tom Gable

They include: Cliff Albert, news director, NewsRadio 600-AM KOGO, Harold Keen Award for outstanding contributions in journalism; Mary Ayala, executive producer and online content coordinator, NewsRadio 600-AM KOGO, Jim Reiman Award for excellence in media  management; Tom Gable, vice chair, Nuffer, Smith, Tucker, Inc. (NST), Andy Mace Award for career achievements in public relations.

Albert has been a source for news on San Diego airwaves for more than 35 years, first as news director at KFMB radio and then at iHeart Media’s KOGO station as program director and then news director. He has worked in the San Diego market since 1979 and has won numerous awards from the Associated Press, San Diego Press Club and the Radio and Television News Association. His car license plate reads “MrNooz.”

Widgets Magazine

Born in the Bronx and educated at UCLA, Keen arrived in San Diego in 1936 as a reporter for The San Diego Sun. He later worked as a reporter for the San Diego Union, a contributing editor of San Diego Magazine and the editorial director for KFMB-TV, beginning in the late 1940s. Keen received numerous prestigious awards for his investigative reporting and was referred to by his colleagues as “The Dean of San Diego Journalists.”

Ayala has worked in radio news since 1983, since her start as an intern at KSDO AM-1130 after high school. She has worked in numerous capacities with KOGO, and has been part of the station’s success in writing, production and management, including news coverage of major events, including the 2003 and 2007 wildfires, and election coverage. She has been recognized with awards from Radio and Television News Association, Society for Professional Journalists and San Diego Press Club.

Cliff Albert

Reiman served for many years as news director at KGTV-TV/Channel 10. He was considered an unsung hero of the profession like many behind-the-scenes journalists who do not have a byline nor appear on camera, but who have a profound influence on news gathering and production. When Reinman retired, the Press Club created the award to honor media managers and the first recipient was KGTV assignment editor Jack Moorhead in 1997.

Gable, a native San Diegan and former newspaper reporter with The Wall Street Journal and Evening Tribune, has worked for the past 40 years in public relations. In 1976, he founded his own PR agency, Gable PR, which he merged with NST in April 2015. Gable is the author of “The PR Client Service Manual,” a book on agency and program management that is sold through the Public Relations Society of America as a standard for best agency practices. He also has contributed to two books on crisis communications.

Gable’s award is named after Andy Mace, former public relations manager at Pacific Telephone in San Diego. In 1971, Mace is credited with the idea of starting the San Diego Press Club. He later started his own company, Andy Mace & Associates, with an office at the Mission Valley’s Stardust Hotel & Country Club, now the Handlery Hotel. He passed away in 2009 at age 88. Gable was a founding member of the Press Club.

Mary Ayala

In addition, two students will each receive cash scholarships at the Press Club event. They include: Nicholas Kjeldgaard, Point Loma Nazarene University, $2,500 Joe Lipper Scholarship; Bo Chen-Samuel, Southwestern College, $1,000 scholarship from the San Diego Press Club Foundation.

Awards will be presented at Jacobs Center at Market Creek. More than 350 awards are expected to be presented in more than 130 categories. The Press Club’s writing awards program is among the largest  regional competitions in the U.S. Judges included reporters and editors in other major U.S. cities. In the past, the competition has drawn the third-largest number of entries for press clubs in the U.S., after the National Press Club in Washington and the Denver Press Club.

Southwest Strategies Promotes, Adds AE

Public affairs firm Southwest Strategies has added a new account executive and announced several promotions.

Spencer Andrew has been hired as an AE. Previously he worked for a PR firm in New York City. He has a degree in political science from the University of California Santa Barbara.

Recent promotions include: Diana Puetz to director of public affairs; Pedro Anaya to senior manager of bi-national affairs and community Relations; Rachel Audino to senior manager of public affairs; Jake Sneeden, Kelli Nenaber and Ashley Johnson to manager of public affairs;  Natalie Buchbinder and Lidiya Kravchuk to senior AE; Sam Rivera to senior graphic designer.

Southwest Strategies was founded by Chris Wahl and Alan Ziegaus in 2000. Offices are located in San Diego, Fresno and Sacramento.

Direct Marketers to Bust Direct Mail Myths

SD Direct, formerly the San Diego Direct Marketing Association, will host “How to Boost Your Marketing Campaigns with Direct Mail,”  a program on the latest direct mail technologies, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 18, at UCSD Extension, Room #317, 6256 Greenwich Dr., San Diego.

Topics will include busting direct mail myths, how to integrate direct mail with digital strategies, measuring direct mail response rates, statistics on effectiveness and best practices. Speaker will be Christopher Foster, VP of business development, Modern Postcard. Foster also teaches a class on product management and branding at UCSD Extension. Cost to attend is $20 for members, $40 for guests and $12 for students. Lunch is included. To RSVP, visit www.sddma.org/events.


Rick Griffin

Rick Griffin is a San Diego-based public relations and marketing consultant. His MarketInk column appears weekly on Mondays in Times of San Diego.

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