Ground Zero has a big new client on its plate: Sizzler USA, the steakhouse chain with more than 300 restaurants nationwide.

L.A.-based Ground Zero will handle advertising strategy and creative for the account, which had billings of $10 million last year. Although the agency's first branding and promotional campaigns won't break until early next year, the central mission of Sizzler is to expand its restaurant count in the U.S., Asia and Latin America.

"We are in the middle of a major strategic review," said Sizzler spokesman Brad Ritter. "After a complete study of the brand, the plan is to release the next wave of creative and position in January."

The restaurant has worked hard in recent years to define its appeal to consumers. Management eliminated the all-you-can-eat buffet strategy and returned to the original service style format, where customers order and pay for their meal when they arrive. Servers deliver the food to the table. Sizzler also re-engineered its menu with the healthy eating trend in mind.

Australia-based Pacific Equity Partners acquired Sizzler in 2005. Last year the company announced 26 new restaurants with both established and new franchise holders, representing nearly a 15 percent increase in U.S. locations. The chain's U.S. headquarters is in Culver City.

"Sizzler's U.S. growth strategy is to expand in the West, where we are the strongest, while also introducing or re-introducing the brand east of the Rockies," according to Todd Peterson, vice-president of franchise development.

As for its market position, the chain has a history of appealing to more than the meat-and-potato crowd. "They created the salad bar craze, after all," said Andrew Gledhill, president of Ground Zero.

Dogs Days Ahead

Susan Hartzler has put her agency in the doghouse. She even changed its name from HRPR to Alpha Dog Public Relations to reflect its new emphasis on pet-centric accounts.

"I am already well known in the industry for my love of animals," Hartzler said. She explained that Alpha Dog "blends my passion for pets with the knowledge and experience I have garnered throughout my career."

The business model hinges on future growth of specialized pet products and services. Already hardy entrepreneurs have pioneered the field by starting holistic medicine centers, pet-friendly hotels and even animal talent agencies.

Hartzler jumped on the trend early by working with several dog clients. They include the Sam Simon Foundation, which trains dogs for the hearing impaired; PawPrince Photo Studio in Woodland Hills; Dog Paddle Hydrotherapy classes in Pasadena; pet psychic Patrice Ryan; and Dr. Karen Halligan, a veterinarian and author of the book "Doc Halligan's What Every Pet Owner Should Know."

Man Plans?

L.A.-based It Girl PR has landed the ultimate assignment: Find the "It" guy for a perfect match!

The agency's new client is Cindy Lu, an actress with a long list of guest appearances on TV. She now has a book titled "The Four Man Plan: A Romantic Science," which hits bookstores this week.

The book takes a mathematical approach to love, starting with the proposition that a woman should always date four men at any given time. Tools for macro-male analysis include "The Wait for Sex Index" and the Matris Graph, a sort of "dance card for the 21st century," according to It Girl.

Book sales represent a departure for It Girl, whose client list mostly comes from the music sector. But the book's material fits the agency's self-definition of "It" as "what's new, hot and sexy."

"Cindy Lu is a true 'It Girl' and we are looking forward to sharing her book with Hollywood's elite celebrities, singles and influencers," said Chief Executive Juliette Harris.

Agencies & Accounts

Los Angles County Economic Development Corp. has hired Mayo Communications as its agency of record. The LAEDC produces a semi-annual Economic Forecast, ranked No. 1 in the country by The Wall Street Journal, and Chief Economist Jack Kyser appears regularly in local and national media. The Mayo contract also includes the World Trade Center Los Angeles/Long Beach, an LAEDC subsidiary. Mayo first worked for LAEDC during the 10-day lockout of the longshoreman's union in 2002; the media campaign later won the Best Media Placement Prism Award from the Public Relations Society of America L.A.-based Amy Levy Public Relations has added four new clients to its roster: Alice Charlier Event Planning & Design Studio specializes in upscale weddings and fundraisers; Elephant Gifts handles celebrity and studio gift collections; sells natural remedies online; and the photographer Rankin, who opens an exhibition in West Hollywood this weekend.

Staff reporter Joel Russell can be reached at , or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 237.

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