Denny’s Campaign Makes Food the Star

Denny’s latest ad campaign dumps Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy for an approach intended to combat the public’s less-than-stellar perception of the sit-down chain.

The national effort breaks today and is the first from Publicis in Mid Amer ica since it won the account in July. A 30-second spot and radio ads portray Denny’s as a relaxing place to get quality food, a response to what agency president/creative Ted Barton said was the client’s image of inconsistent quality and negative experiences.

“Recess” shows dining co-workers laughing as one grabs a cell phone away from another. “Lunch should be like recess,” says the voiceover. The camera pans to shots of Denny’s “classic lunch” entrees. The work debuts the chain’s first tagline in years, “A good place to sit and eat.”

“Denny’s hasn’t used advertising to capture the soul of its brand,” said Barton. “We’re trying to say there’s a place for Denny’s in your life and it’s a simple, honest at mos phere where you can get good food.”

Denny’s, which aims to improve its service and food quality, hired the Dallas agency to handle creative and its sister Optimedia, also Dallas, to handle media on its esti mated $50 million account. Previous shop WestWayne, Atlanta, created the most recent spots that starred the Muppets.

During the first three quarters of 2002, 1,700-unit Denny’s saw revenue at company-owned restaurants fall to $653 million from $725 million during the same period in 2001.

Choosing a new agency is one of several of the Spartanburg, S.C., cli ent’s initiatives to boost sales. Denny’s is also altering its media mix to include more national and fewer spot-market buys, aiming its target younger (to diners ages 18-49 instead of 25-54), and reaching out more aggressively to Hispanics.

A 30-second spot from Denny’s new Hispanic shop, cruz/kravetz: Ideas, Los Angeles, breaks today. Denny’s is in the midst of a review for its African American adver tising.