Merkley + Partners uses “Mini Me”-like characters dressed in sports uniforms to tout the on-premises games consumers play at Dave & Buster’s in the shop’s first effort for the restaurant chain.
The miniatures — referred to as “funs” — represent smaller, fun-loving versions of full-size characters that also appear in three TV spots, the first of which broke April 8.
That commercial, “Date Night,” depicts a thirtysomething guy picking up a woman for a night out, with his miniature alter ego at his side.
“Oh, you brought your fun?” asks the woman.
He replies: “Yeah, I thought we’d go to Dave & Buster’s. My fun really likes it there.”
The woman’s mini-character then appears behind her, interjecting: “You didn’t say anything about Dave & Buster’s. I thought you were going to a movie. Give me five minutes.”
Two other spots, which break next week, depict a guy walking through an office with his “fun” and three guys looking down from a condominium balcony at their “funs” bouncing on a car in the parking lot. Each ad also promotes a $15.99 “eat and play combo” offer that includes an entrée and a $10 game card. The tagline is, “Feed your fun.”
The estimated $15-20 million campaign, which also includes radio ads, digital and on-premise marketing, evolves Dave & Buster’s previous effort, which featured more scenes in the restaurant itself and used the tag, “Eat, drink and play.”
That earlier work was created by Dallas agency Slingshot, which Merkley succeeded in November after winning a review of creative duties.
The old tag is still part of the voiceover, but these new spots aim to forge an emotional connection with consumers and help the chain “own fun as a brand,” said Mandy Antoniacci, group account director at Merkley in New York.
Andy Hirsch, the shop’s co-executive creative director, further described the approach as “bringing out that inner child, the relief of that fun side.”
Also, rather than use animation or similar effects to depict the “funs,” Merkley opted for realistic yet smaller versions of the main characters. “You want it to be relatable, you want it to be human,” explained Jean Batthany, a creative group head on the account.
Dallas-based Dave & Buster’s operates about 50 restaurants in 23 states and Canada. Each locale has a sports-bar feel, with tables for dining and a section for competitive, sports-themed games.
The next stage of the campaign will involve “re-skinning” Dave & Buster’s Web site to reflect the revised creative approach and crafting new posters and table-top signs, according to Antoniacci.
In addition, Merkley will create a link to the site where consumers will be able to personalize their own “fun” characters by uploading images of their faces onto bodies shown playing the games at Dave & Biuster’s. That feature should be ready by June.
The other creative group heads contributing to the effort were Steve Doppelt and David McMillan. The director on the TV work was Zach Math of Bob Industries and the agency producer was Nicole Gabrielle.