Uncle Julio’s Punches Above Their Weight

Our relationship with Uncle Julio’s started back in 2014.  They asked us to join an agency pitch for taking their new brand positioning (Mexican from Scratch) and building a campaign around it.  In all transparency, we were asked because I had worked with Tom Vogel, the chain’s CEO, at Darden Restaurants.  But he didn’t just give us the work, he put us up against a handful of other agencies, and we won.  Our first assignment, after winning the business, was to help them rebuild sales in the Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) market.  They were in the process of updating their menu and leaning hard into what they were known for: Fajitas.  We delivered a fully integrated campaign (using a combination of radio, outdoor, and digital) that turned the trend in DFW around.  It was a remarkable success that solidified our relationship.

Fast forward about 2 years, and the Uncle Julio’s team created this incredible, one of a kind dessert, The Chocolate Piñata.  It’s a hand made ball of dark chocolate.  Stuffed inside is fresh fruit and home made churros.  This thing of beauty is suspended by a specially made piece of metal hardware and served on a platter with fresh whipped cream, dipping sauces and fruit puree.  Once it’s at the guests table, they are presented with a mallet that they use to smash open this creation and dig into all of its deliciousness.  It’s a truly on brand (all made from scratch with a from scratch experience) and simply remarkable creation.  See below (I think you will agree).

When this new dessert was shared with us, we knew we had to convince Uncle Julio’s to consider putting the Chocolate Piñata on television and use video in the digital space, something they just didn’t think they had the budget to do.  We had to figure out a way, as the act of smashing the Chocolate Piñata had to be seen in action– and what other competitors were on TV with a dessert? Exactly none– what a way for Uncle Julio’s to punch above their weight and disrupt the market.  We rallied and figured out how to produce a high quality spot on a limited budget and partnered with a media team to leverage a very affordable tonnage buy.   Needless to say, the Chocolate Piñata became the smash hit we knew it would be and continues to be a driver of traffic and sales for Uncle Julio’s.

From the launch of the Chocolate Piñata until now, we’ve continued to keep Uncle Julio’s incredible menu items in front of their audience with affordable, high-quality video running across OTT/CTV, Cable, YouTube, Social Media, and more.   To all the marketers and brands out there that think they can’t afford a video based campaign that runs across digital and/or traditional media, I challenge you to think again.  Here are a few insider tips on how you can make it happen:

  • Proper Planning.  With video production you want to think ahead to try and anticipate the future needs of the brand.  Every time we go into production, we are shooting multiple spots and working with a list of “nice to have” extra shots that can be used for anything (e.g. ingredients being prepped, various proteins on the grill, guest reaction shots). We also get both video and photography at the same time. You’d be surprised how much you can get when you have a solid plan.  Here’s the first of 3 commercials we shot in February, 2022:

  • Local Talent.  Most of the on camera talent we’ve used in the multitude of commercials we created, do not have speaking lines.  This makes it easier to cast and hire local, non-SAG talent that are looking to build their acting portfolio and want the exposure a brand like Uncle Julio’s can give them.  We also tend to use Uncle Julio’s own staff for the roles of servers, chefs and extras.
Uncle Julio's talent on-set
Several of our local actors on-set at Uncle Julio’s getting ready for a scene where they are all sharing a meal together
  • Director, Cinematographer & Photographer.  Invest your money in these roles, their equipment and the crew needed to support them (e.g. assistants, lighting, grips).  This is the critical component to getting high quality video and photography.
Cinematographer on set
Our world-class Cinematographer on set with a camera that’s used for features and a lens that picks up the richest colors giving us the highest quality video possible to work with in editing

If you’re a restaurant brand who wants to level up your marketing and advertising, we’d be happy to start a conversation about how we can help you punch above your weight.   Feel free to give us a shout.