This Perfectly Crafted Denny’s Ad Will Get You Surprisingly Pumped for ‘Solo’

Stellar casting, an authentic set and not a pancake in sight

Denny's ad promoting its tie-in with Solo was shot on the actual set with production help from Star Wars veterans.

There’s been only one trailer released so far for the upcoming flick Solo: A Star Wars Story, so Denny’s has stepped up to fill the hype gap with a geektastic peek into this summer blockbuster.

For the 60-second ad announcing its link to the movie, the restaurant chain and its agency EP+Co assembled a cantina full of intergalactic ruffians, doused it with spiked blue milk and set it to a throat-singing soundtrack. Chewbacca surveys the scene and adds his patented yowl.

There’s an intense card game at the center of the action, which gives the spot its name, “Hand of Sabacc.” Will it be the pivotal moment when Lando Calrissian loses the Millennium Falcon to Han Solo? Fans will have to catch the space thriller when it launches May 25 to find out for sure, but meantime, there are plenty of Easter eggs and insider tidbits in the commercial. Begin parsing for clues, fanboys and girls!

EP+Co shot the ad on the Solo set in the U.K., working with Lucasfilm and Skywalker Sound and bringing in Star Wars veterans Neil Lamont (production designer) and Neal Scanlan (Oscar-winning creature and special makeup effects supervisor). The casting is spot-on, which is especially impressive considering the criticism the movie has received so far from fans who think Solo star Alden Ehrenreich doesn’t look or sound much like Harrison Ford’s rakish rogue.

The work is one of the few times that Denny’s food isn’t the star of the campaign, but the brand’s CMO John Dillon said he wanted it to be “very cinematic” and add to the “authentic Star Wars experience.”

Denny’s, which has revived its sales and reinvented both its menus and physical locations over the past several years, had been looking for a way to collaborate with Disney. This is Denny’s first alliance with the storied studio, now owner of Lucasfilm, after having worked with various other Hollywood players like Warner Bros., Sony and 20th Century Fox.

“The breakthrough came with this concept of tying our movie promotion to giving back,” Dillon said during a media gathering in Los Angeles on Monday. “That’s when it all started to click.”

Denny’s has brought in its longtime charitable partner, No Kid Hungry, and plans to donate net proceeds of trading card sales to the nonprofit. The chain will sell a dozen different limited-edition collector cards at its venues and via its mobile and online ordering. If the program’s a hit, Dillon estimates it could bring in as much as $4 million for the group, which battles childhood hunger. (To date, the partnership has funneled more than $6 million and 63 million meals to needy kids).

As it’s done with previous movie tie-ins, Denny’s will feature entertainment-themed merchandise (a collector cup with a Millennium Falcon lid) and food like the Two Moons Skillet, Blaster Fire Burger and Co-Reactor Pancakes, which come with a side of Crystal Crunch Rocks, a pastel-colored garnish akin to Pop Rocks.

Denny’s plans to mobilize its national and local TV media and its digital and social channels through June.

Solo: A Star Wars Story, for which Disney has brought in additional brand partners like Solo cups, Esurance, General Mills, Nissan and Symantec Corp., stars Donald Glover, Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Paul Bettany, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Thandie Newton alongside Alden Ehrenreich as the young smuggler in his pre-rebel hero days. It premieres Memorial Day weekend, and buzz is already building that it’ll be lighter popcorn fare than a few of the recent (divisive) installments in the long-running franchise.


Agency: EP+Co
President/CCO: Conway Williamson
EVP Executive Creative Director: Mike Lear
Creative Director: Rich Cutter
Copywriter: John Macaluso
VP, Director of Content Production: Danny Miller
Content Producer: Rachel Rawlinson
Managing Director: Karen Mawhinney
Account Supervisor: Jenny-Lee Maxwell
Senior Account Manager: Elisa Taneyhill

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