Denny’s selects Anomaly as its new creative agency
Denny’s has picked Anomaly as its new creative agency, a move that comes as the diner chain tries to rebound from a difficult 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic led to the closure of dining rooms and a massive sales decline.
Denny’s had worked with EP+Co. as its agency of record since 2013, following three years with Interpublic Group of Cos.-owned Gotham. MDC Partners’ Anomaly was selected as Denny’s new creative agency following a formal review that began in early 2021, says Denny’s Chief Brand Officer John Dillon.
The chain has been working on an overhaul that has included restaurant remodeling and focusing more on delivery in the past few years. The next phase of Denny’s brand revitalization as America’s diner includes more of a focus on innovation and inclusivity, says Dillon. He points out that the majority of its guests have multicultural backgrounds and calls Anomaly “very culturally relevant across cultures.”
Denny's has “nothing but love” for EP+Co., says Dillon, adding. “no question, their work has really helped lead to the early stages of our brand rejuvenation.”
But the pandemic massively disrupted the restaurant industry, in particular sit-down chains such as Denny’s. That challenge gave the brand perspective as it decided to look for fresh ways to set itself up for the next stage of growth “as we head into that recovery mode,” says Dillon.
Anomaly, which works with companies including Ancestry.com, General Mills and Jimmy John’s, stood out among four finalists in the pitch, which included input from the chain’s franchisees. Anomaly demonstrated “not only their understanding of our brand but a strategic thoughtfulness,” says Dillon.
It will handle Denny’s creative and social media work.
“As an ambitious agency, when you can get excited about the brand, excited about the brief, and equally excited about the people on the other side of the table - you know you've got something special," said Franke Rodriguez, partner and CEO of Anomaly New York and Toronto.
The agency switch comes as Denny’s is expanding its in-house capabilities, building an internal agency to work on things such as menus and merchandising, as well as some digital media.
Denny’s has been doing more to promote the brand on social media. Today, it is giving away items including slippers shaped like stacks of pancakes on Twitter. In March, it sold its most popular tweets as NFTs, with proceeds going to No Kid Hungry. EP+Co. worked on both of those projects.
EP+Co handled Denny’s field marketing, menus and other work before becoming its agency of record in 2013. Dillon says the agency declined to participate in the review.
“We have had an incredible, fun, kick-ass, creative and all-round amazing 12-year adventure with Denny’s…we love those guys,” Con Williamson, EP+Co’s president and chief creative officer, said in a statement. “But 12 years is a really long time; that’s like 105 in human years. So after lots of great conversation, Denny’s and EP+Co mutually agreed that it was just time to shake things up – in the best way possible. Across the board we’ve been unthinking the model of how we run our business, and sometimes that means recognizing when it’s time to move on.”
Denny’s is primarily a sit-down chain known for breakfast dishes such as the Grand Slam. The restaurant and its rivals have had a challenging year trying to increase delivery and carry-out orders. Sales at Denny’s longstanding locations fell as much as 79% in the early weeks of the pandemic. Denny’s U.S. system-wide sales fell 35.2% to $1.74 billion in 2020, while larger rival IHOP saw its sales skid 34.6%, and smaller rival Waffle House’s sales fell 36%, according to data from Technomic.
Denny's overhaul in recent years included the 2019 launch of the “See You at Denny’s” campaign, which was handled by EP+Co., the agency that was previously known as Erwin Penland, along with Conill and Fluent 360.