Denny's serves family-friendly branding effort

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Denny's is offering itself as the antidote for disconnected families in a new branding effort breaking today.

Themed "America's kitchen table," the campaign from new agency WestWayne, Tampa, Fla., starts with a 30-second spot centered around the kitchen table. As footage of home movies of families gathered around the dinner table flash by, the voiceover waxes nostalgic about how many of life's memorable moments happen at the dinner table.

"It's heard laughter, tears, secrets. It knows the sound of concern," the voice-over states. "If only there were a place that made you feel the way you did at your kitchen table." Screen copy follows with, "Maybe there is." The final frame flashes the Denny's logo and tagline, "America's kitchen table."

Jenifer Harmon, advertising director for Denny's, said, "Of all the brands out there Denny's offers [the experience of eating in your own kitchen]. It's a regular everyday place for you to enjoy a moment of your life with your family."


The reconnect position is the result of research WestWayne conducted during the chain's agency review for the estimated $10 million account. As part of its winning pitch, WestWayne asked consumers why they ate at Denny's.

"Consumers saw Denny's as a place that was comfortable," said Roy Getz, VP-marketing for the Advantica Restaurant Group unit. "[WestWayne] took that piece of research and connected it with today's trends."

Promotional spots also will continue the kitchen table theme. "The second spot delivers a portion of the brand message plus value," said Mr. Getz.


When he joined the chain in December, Mr. Getz said he wanted to leverage the strengths of the 40-year-old brand. "It made sense for us to bring some brand back to Denny's," he said, rather than just pricing specials.

The company hasn't had a strong branding campaign that matched the success of the Corlick sisters spots from the early 1990s by D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Greenville, S.C. The chain later attempted a humorous branding effort rooted in "common sense" from the then- Lowe & Partners in 1997. In 1999, the chain tried humor again, with the "Warning" spots to drive home its value proposition, but didn't provide "enough of a differentiating point," Ms. Harmon said.

The chain has improved its performance after facing its parent company's near-bankruptcy, a racial discrimination crisis and lackluster ads through the mid-1990s.

"There were some real challenges to the business," conceded Mr. Getz. Since then, Parent Advantica Restaurant Group began divesting its other brands -- having already sold the Hardee's and El Pollo Loco chains -- to concentrate on Denny's. Denny's U.S. systemwide sales in 1999 were slightly more than $2 billion, up 5.9% from the previous year.

"Now that they've focused on improved store performance, that's helped significantly," said Bob Goldin, exec VP at restaurant consultancy Technomic.


Of the top chains in the midscale family style category, Denny's holds a nearly 20% share, ahead of regional player Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and International House of Pancakes. Chains control about one-third of the $31 billion family style category, according to Technomic.

While seniors have been a key target, the marketer also is trying to appeal to adults ages 25 to 54 and families with children. To reach those audiences, the commercials will air on cable networks, including Fox Family, ESPN, Lifetime and the Weather Channel. Media buys also include NBC's "Today Show" and ABC's "20/20."

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