Media Mavens 2013

John Dillon Hits Media Grand Slam For Denny's

VP-Brand Marketing's Hobbit Menu, Bacon Blitz and Tumblr Hit Home With Millennials

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With the help of bacon and Bilbo Baggins, John Dillon is making 60-year-old Denny's more relevant to millennials.

John Dillon
John Dillon Credit: Michael Hoeweler

The challenge for Denny's VP-brand marketing is "to age down the brand," he said, a task he tackled by bringing a sense of humor to the chain's advertising. Mr. Dillon, 41, was behind its limited-time Baconalia push this year, in which Denny's partnered with humor website Fail Blog to create branded videos that show failure scenarios in which "bacon makes it better."

As part of the chain's tie-in with the movie "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," he oversaw a special Middle Earth menu that offered choices like Frodo's Pot Roast Skillet, Gandalf's Gobble Melt and the Build Your Own Hobbit Slam. That was promoted with billboards in the Los Angeles-area written in the fictional "Lord of the Rings" Elvish language.

This year, the chain launched a Tumblr blog, which Mr. Dillon said is still in its infancy, that features Denny's-related content, including absurd animated GIFs, such as people being propelled into space from a Denny's Grand Slam.

If you were stranded on a desert island, which magazines would you want most?
I still hang on to my Sports Illustrated hard copy subscription and can't really live without it. Other than that I'd be looking for a DIY mag on raft-building.

What is your guilty-pleasure TV show, old-school sitcom or magazine?
The most timeless of all time, "Saved by the Bell." Who doesn't love the one with Jessie on caffeine pills?

Who is your favorite follow on Twitter?
Clearly, @dennysdiner. What can be better?

Describe your daily media consumption.
I keep the morning media-free. During work day there's always two to three screens on in my office (serial multitasking) with social media, news and business constantly in the background. Home and weekends, it's a balance of sports mixed with catching up on DVR and Netflix shows ... with iPhone within reach, of course.

Which TV shows, if any, do you tweet?
If football counts, then football. NFL or Baylor games.

Which obsolete tech device do you wish you could have back?
I'm not talented enough to play today's video games, so bring back my Atari. Just the one button to deal with. Pitfall, Qbert and Burgertime.

If you weren't doing this job, what would you be doing?
Definitely general manager of Dallas Cowboys (Jerry, still waiting on your call).

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