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Denny's Launches 'Remixed' Atari Classics

While Rivals Court Millennials, Campaign Aims at Gen Xers with Families

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Advertising Age Player

While many marketers are obsessing about how to best reach millennials, Denny's is launching a campaign that targets the forgotten Gen X cohort.

Denny's has teamed up with Atari to release three of its classic games -- Centipede, Asteroids and Breakout -- on Denny's mobile app, but with a branded twist. Asteroids, for instance, will be called Hashteroids, in a nod to Denny's hash browns. In Asteroids, the object of the game is to destroy asteroids -- which are replaced by hash browns destroyed by shooting ketchup from a spaceship-shaped bottle. Centipede is renamed Centipup, an homage to Denny's pancakes, and Breakout is renamed Take-Out.

The campaign is for "Greatest Hits Remixed," a new limited-time menu featuring some of Denny's classics such as Moons Over My Hammy and the Grand Slam, though they are altered slightly. The Grand Slam meal will be "remixed" to the Red, White and Blue Slam, which includes pancakes with blueberries and a strawberry topping.

Red White and Blue Slam
Red White and Blue Slam

For Denny's, the campaign is the latest in a string of quirky and increasingly digital marketing efforts. In the last couple years it's launched a Middle-Earth inspired menu for a Lord of the Rings promotion; enlisted the Dog Whisperer to court Hispanic consumers; and threw a Bacchanal bacon celebration.

And while it's upped its digital efforts to increase relevance with millennials, with the current effort Denny's is decidedly targeting Gen X, a group now well into the parenting years. John Dillon, VP-marketing at Denny's, said that teaming up with Atari was meant to appeal to "kids of the '80s," who grew up playing on the original console. "Our target is families with kids," said Mr. Dillon. "And Gen Xers have families, too." He added that the campaign will also likely appeal to millennials who grew up in a time when playing video games was standard.

The campaign was created by Denny's lead agency, Erwin Penland. Denny's will also air TV ads promoting the Greatest Hits Remixed menu, also created by Erwin Penland, and will air Hispanic TV spots created by Casanova Pendrill. Mr. Dillon said that the campaign is expected to last three months.

The partnership is the biggest for Atari since it came out of bankruptcy in December, said Kristen Keller, exec VP-business affairs and general counsel at Atari. The company filed for Chapter 11 in January 2013, saying it wanted to sell its portfolio of more than 200 videogames to a highest bidder. That original plan didn't happen, so the company decided to sell off assets in pieces.

Ms. Keller said that the company had previously inked partnerships with companies such as General Mills and Taco Bell, but it had been years since those efforts. "From a brand-marketing perspective, we're excited about this partnership because we get to connect with existing fans, but we get to expose the Atari brand to new fans as well, which part of the strategy for our comeback," said Tony Chien, senior director-marketing at Atari.

Denny's, the 27th largest restaurant chain in the U.S., saw systemwide sales increase 1.5% in 2013, according to Technomic. It has about 1,600 locations in the U.S.

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