Denny’s Grand Slam Fumble


Rae:  What’s tomorrow’s post about?
Lisa: Denny’s.
Rae: What the [censored] does Denny’s have to do with Internet marketing?
Lisa: [blink] Their Superbowl ad and whether or not they just blew $3million on marketing?
Rae: Oh. Okay. We didn’t see that ad in Canada.
Lisa: [rolls eyes, walks away]

There comes a point in every relationship where you have to ask yourself – why am I doing this? Am I wasting my time? Why am I here and what am I getting out of it? He’s not even that cute.

I have to wonder if that’s a question Denny’s is asking itself right now.

One of the problems I see with companies is that they don’t take the time to define success. They don’t outline what actions are important to their goals or the metrics that they’re using to define them. They’re just throwing stuff out there, hoping something sticks. And they’re doing that because defining success is scary. Once you know what makes you successful, you also know what makes you a failure. No one wants to fail.

If you live in the States, you probably remember that Denny’s received quite a bit of attention and press coverage for their Super Bowl ad a few weeks ago. The ad cost them $3 million and encouraged people to stop on by to get a free Grand Slam breakfast. In case you are like Rae and don’t live in the States, here’s one of the ads that was used:

Cute, right? Uh, sure.

I guess they were successful. Hoards of shamelessly hungry folks showed up, stood in the cold for 45 minutes, and then happily enjoyed their complimentary Grand Slam breakfast. According to Denny’s, an average of 1,400 people were served in each of their 1,541 locations. That, my friends, is the power of “free” in the middle of a recession.

It looks good. But, as far as I can tell, that’s not how Denny’s was defining success.

Denny’s said they wanted to become “relevant” again. The past few years they’ve watched as Starbucks and McDonalds came in to steal away their market share and establish themselves as the place to go for breakfast. Denny’s hoped inviting people in to enjoy a free meal would help woo those customers back and show them the wonderfulness that is Denny’s.

I wanted to see how many people were still talking about Denny’s now that everyone’s had a chance to digest their free meal. Essentially, are people still interested?

Here’s what I found:


See, that doesn’t scream “We’re relevant!” to me. That screams, “We got so caught up in the excitement of a Super Bowl ad that we forgot to consider if this would actually help us.”. Sure, it’s not as catchy, but it’s a hell of a lot more accurate.

Do yourself a favor: Don’t be Denny’s.

Before you throw budget at something, figure out your goals and objectives. Create a path for how you anticipate meeting those goals and make sure your actions complement that. If they do, execute. If they don’t, try again. Don’t just launch.

Of course, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Denny’s didn’t simply get caught up in the hoopla. Big Thinking for Small Businesses said that if Denny’s can turn just .5 percent of the two million people who showed up for Free Grand Slam Day into customers, then that will increase their customer base by 100,000. Okay, math may be delicious, but that’s a big if. We don’t know that Denny’s will be able to do that. We don’t know that anyone will leave their favorite breakfast place and trek on over.  Sales will be the true test, but if conversation is any indicator of relevancy, they failed. The conversation that they tried to start is already dead and buried.

Denny’s could have improved their results by doing two small things:

  • Saved the millions and ran it smaller scale: There was no reason to buy a $3 million Super Bowl ad to advertise what most companies would have promoted locally or through national, less costly ads. A free meal is not revolutionary and a $6 breakfast is barely noteworthy. If you’re looking for relevancy, a more targeted local ad may have done the trick. Denny’s should have made themselves relevant to the neighborhoods they were targeting, not try to associate themselves with “a serious breakfast”. I don’t want serious in the morning. I want coffee.
  • Told a far more compelling story: If you’re going to invest $3 million, you better be damn sure that you have a good story to tell. Denny’s spoke but said nothing. There was no point of difference conveyed. It was all show and no story. There was no attempt at connecting with people beyond the free breakfast approach. If you’re trying to get people to switch their current habits, you better have one hell of a story for them as to why they should do that. Engage me. Excite me. Turn me on. Do something. Evoke something. Tousle me up enough that I remember you in the morning. Otherwise, just shut up.

I don’t know much about football, but this was a fumble. It was a weak message presented poorly and leveraged even worse.  Perhaps if there was a better marketing campaign centered around the commercial, one that encouraged the conversation to live on beyond that one day, I’d be more impressed. But there wasn’t. The Super Bowl isn’t just another advertising opportunity, it’s the advertising opportunity.

When you have the chance to do something great, invest in it.  Because if you’re like me, achieving a little success when you know it could have been greater, hurts more than no success at all.

Your Comments

  • Michael D

    Good point Lisa. Also important to recall Denny’s apparently failed to prepare for the online onslaught of searches to be performed beginning seconds after the ad ran. Server went down and remained down for about 2 hours (just enough time for millions to forget what the free thing commercial was).

  • Brian Combs

    Interesting article, Lisa, but wouldn’t it have been more accurate to do some sort of relative measurement?

    Sure, they didn’t move the needle much in your chart (other than the spike), but that may at least partially be because of the spike itself washing out the data before and after. They’re compressed so low that it’s difficult to really tell what the trend line is.

    Perhaps they should be compared against McDonalds and Starbucks? Or against other advertisers in the Super Bowl? Or anything else to provide a comparison?

  • Shane Arthur

    100,000 customers? Hell, they could have set up a twitter account for free, announced that they would twit(to those that followed them) a url with a free breakfast coupon to print out, and gained much more community involvement.

  • Lisa Barone

    Michael: Seriously. It’s like they saved their pennies all year, bought a pretty dress and then forgot when the dance was or that they needed a date. The only thing worse than not doing something is doing it half-assed. Pie to the face. All of you.

    Shane: An excellent point and one I was thinking myself. If you’re spending $5 million ($3 million for the ad + food costs) to get 100,000 customers — you’re doing something wrong. I’d rather see them spend $20 on some pizzas during a working lunch where they hang out and interact with people on Twitter. At least then you’re forming real relationships and people who will remember you in the morning.

  • Casey Yandle

    Isn’t the point to make a profit on your investments? :) Not only would it have been cheaper to do something like this on Twitter like Shane said, but they could continue doing these types of “free” breakfast things over time without having to spend even more than the original $5 million for more commercials. Marketing FAIL!

  • George Bounacos

    Okay, okay, I wrote the bit about the conversion rate, and that was spreadsheet magic. I agree that the issue of relevancy is a far, far stretch. What isn’t a stretch was any incremental revenue on the 2 million meals. Did Denny’s average a dollar of incremental revenue on each meal? A dime? Dunno. But that has to be part of the ROI math to be truly delicious.

    And as the recession deepens, you can play with that math all day long. Was the conversion rate in retail only 0.0005? That’s still 10,000 customers. What’s the lifetime value on a Denny’s customer? Is it $300? $500?

    I think ultimately that Denny’s and their agency used this sort of thinking to justify the campaign. What I don’t know is if they were wrong. The only math that I’m sure of is that I 100% agree with Lisa’s comment about using some test markets and measuring everything before splashing the Super Bowl, even if a bunch of marketers are still talking about the non-relevant chain a month later.

  • Vanessa Fox

    And since they changed the title tag of the home page to reflect the promotion, the search results for [denny’s] displayed “free grand slam” for days after the promo was over.

  • netmeg

    I’ve been wondering all along what the idea was behind this, and by what standard of measurement they were going to decide whether this was a success or a failure. I know which side of the fence I’d be standing on.

    Even the Burger King campaigns (which I think are excruciating) seem somewhat better thought out than this one.

  • Lisa Barone

    George: Thanks for coming by. Didn’t mean to pick on you, you were just one of the few people daring enough to put a number on it. :)

    Personally, I don’t suspect they actually made anything off the actual breakfasts. If anything, I think they probably just recovered their costs thanks to people ordering drinks, extra stuff, etc. It was a straight branding attempt, in my opinion, and one that was executed rather poorly.

    Even if a few marketers are still talking about it, that’s obviously not who they were targeting. They’re targeting the folks who actually have time for a “serious” breakfast in the morning. I don’t know too many of us who take out the time for that. ;)

    Thanks again for the comment!

  • Alysson

    You hit the nail on the head, Lisa…and I thought the same thing as I was watching the Denny’s Superbowl commercial at the time. I wondered how many customers would be lured back to Denny’s in the future based on enjoying their free $5 breakfast on that day.

    The fact is that Denny’s has been known for their cheap “Grand Slam” breakfast for what seems like forever already, so I’m not entirely sure what they were hoping to accomplish by giving it away for free. Even in this economy, the Grand Slam breakfast is pretty affordable…and, if you’re not already a loyal Denny’s breakfast lover, having gotten it for free once isn’t necessarily going to move them to the top of anyone’s favorite breakfast locales in the future.

  • Alysson

    netmeg: I share your opinion that the BK commercials are excruciating, but they’re certainly have a viral element and a hook that Denny’s attempts lack. If nothing else, you’re bound to remember “Whopper Virgins” a lot longer than you will remember that Denny’s once gave away a free breakfast.

  • Barry Goggin

    The top 5 Dennys related searches were:
    United States, Last 30 days
    Top searches
    1. dennys free
    2. grand slam
    3. grand slam dennys
    4. free grand slam
    5. dennys free slam

    and best of all none of these search volumes persisted either. What a waste.

  • trip

    No offense, but I don’t think you are their target market. Nor do I think people generally tend to search for Denny’s prior to going to Denny’s, just like I don’t generally search for any fast food prior to going.

    You should put up some ROI numbers since search isn’t everything. Also I think we will better be able to measure the success in a couple of years when we see what else they did to market themselves.

  • Dr. Pete

    Wow, on top of the $3M for the ad (which probably was just the air-time), they gave away over 2M Grand Slam breakfasts? Even if that $6 meal costs them $1.50, that’s another $3M right there. I’ve got to believe there are better ways to spend six million dollars.

  • Shane Arthur

    Agreed Lisa.

    Here’s where ALL businesses better get on the twitter gold rush before squatters beat them to it (they may after this comment).

    Let’s take Denny’s as an example. In Web 1.0 companies had websites, and each franchise had a subdomain website to advertise.

    We’ll in Web 2.0, Denny’s should have an @Denny’s handle and each affiliate should have one too. Ex. @Denny’s_Oakland_CA Just because Twitter is free doesn’t mean twitter names like this are not valuable. Each Denny’s franchise should have a twitter handle immediately! EVERY business should have them, too. As a matter of fact, I may just go squatting after this post on as many twitter handles for as many companies as I can. Who knows, a company may just offer up money for them. And any twitter app developer should jump on this and find a way to animate the squatting process.

    What say you?

  • Maria Ny

    I agree with you in saying that they should done a test run with a smaller, more localized area. It looks like a big waste to me. I guess one good thing is that lots of people got a free meal. I didn’t get a chance to take advantage. But, in a way, I’m glad I didn’t. Can you imagine the crowds?

  • Travis Wright

    You are mostly right, Lisa.

    Here is the thing. They didn’t pick there winner. The funniest thing was Nannerpuss. That commercial is hilarious. I love it.

    Dennys problem, is they didn’t release the ringtones for… really build a microsite… etc. That thing was great. The commercial was 15-ish seconds. brilliant.

    I had to make my own ringtone. They did fumble, you are right.

  • Olivier Amar

    Hmmm I’m not sure how much I agree here. As much as I love online marketing and agree with what you’re saying they could have done, offline blitz (notice the football reference) marketing will always have its place. Staying on the subject of football strategy, you can’t just blitz once and hope that it will make a difference. Blitzing is something you need to repeat to be effective.
    Also, there’s a problem with the point you’re making about the graph, when looking at a graph where you’ve got a huge blip on it, you can never see the lingering effects afterwords without removing the blip (and comparing the before and after), unfortunately trends doesn’t let us do that, but it will be very interesting to run insights in April to compare January to March (since February is corrupted by the promotional blip).
    If they really put Denny’s food in 2,157,400 people’s mouths and reminded people that there’s another alternative called Denny’s I think they succeeded. Although I’ll return to my earlier point and say that they need to follow this up with more promotions in order to keep it going and not just letting it die out.

  • MLDina

    I have to agree with you. Their marketing scheme is very similar to their customer service approach. Get you in the door and out as fast as possible, with no retention value.

    When comparing their company to Starbucks and McDonald’s, it’s a matter of service. One thing that both of those companies can get you that Denny’s can’t? Time. There’s no drive thru, no in and out option (despite their fast food appeal, I hear stories about insanely long waits), and no convenience. They need to figure out their business strategy before they market it. Hopefully the free breakfast works out, guess we’ll have to wait for the sales figures.

  • Sean Maguire

    I absolutely, positively could not disagree more with your assessment. First off – to suggest that the campaign didn’t work and that Denny’s is irrelevant because:

    1) Google Trends showed that they weren’t being talked about after the Super Bowl


    2) You like coffee instead of a big breakfast

    only serves to demonstrate your lack of understanding and very limited view of marketing metrics and how to effectively evaluate a campaign form a holistic perspective.

    While it can be argued forever what would be the best way to invest marketing dollars, the fact is – Denny’s generated massive amounts of buzz and goodwill among millions of people that talked about and responded to this campaign by benefitting from a free breakfast during a recession.

    The success of a campaign like this can only truly be gauged by the long term effect. I would venture to guess that tens or hundreds of thousands, will visit Denny’s a second, third, fourth time, etc., due to a favorable dining experience and a desire to reward Denny’s goodwill. That’s a success.

    As for your post, it’s nothing more than a ripoff from another article, that was posted on February 2, 2008.

    Perhaps you should change the company name to “Regurgitated Media”.

  • Rae Hoffman

    Yes Sean, you’re right. We stole the post idea from a blog with a total of two posts. It’s mighty impressive we managed to find that post on a blog nobody reads especially when nobody linked to it. [/sarcasm]

    Or maybe I misunderstood you or your thoughts got muffled while your head was up your ass. :)

  • Misty

    There have always been problems in TV advertising, and the Super Bowl specifically, that’s why companies that do Internet Marketing have such an advantage, we can track results. Having owned a franchise I can tell you most, meaning 98% of businesses, don’t track marketing AT ALL. This came as a surprise to me having started in Internet Marketing. I literally had franchise experts telling me I had to put everything out there and, as you said, hope something stuck to the wall. I was flabbergasted that “experts” were telling me that none of the other franchisees were tracking ROI on advertising methods. I would go to corporate and ask what was working in other locations, and they would have no idea.

    Denny’s had no idea how to track something like this or even that they SHOULD track it. Most Super Bowl advertisers are interested in “branding”, and we know how most Internet Marketers feel about that. We can’t really measure how much Denny’s gained from this campaign, and I can guarantee you Denny’s can’t either. But it does give online marketers more of a chance to see where we can impact corporate marketing campaigns, not just online, but off as well.

  • Patrick Sexton

    Sean? Bad day or something? You know well there is nothing that Lisa does that is regurgitated or ripped off.

  • Sean Maguire

    A simple search of “Denny’s Grand Slam Campaign”, brings this up as the fourth result. It took me about 2 seconds to find the post.

    I guess you’re suggesting Lisa did no online research before writing the post, and her post just by chance happens to have huge parallels right down the the headline, quoting of Google trends, and a similar spin. Whatever. I’ll let people judge for themselves.

    PS – The “head up your ass” comment is just more of your own regurge, so I guess my suggestion is apropos all around. Try coming up with something a bit more original, would ya?

  • Al

    Sean: I have a reply about this part of you comment.
    2) You like coffee instead of a big breakfast

    actually, I tend to like big breakfast, but I also don’t like to eat it in a place where there is mildew in the carpet.

    that, folks, is the problem with Denny’s and why they are STILL irrelevant. They are mostly old and dirty and stink inside. Giving away their pretty good tasting food for free is like putting lipstick on a pig.


  • Lisa Barone

    Sean: If the purpose of the campaign was to get people talking about Denny’s, I think the fact that no one is, demonstrates it didn’t go as successfully as they had hoped. Perhaps we’ll see a boom in folks ordering Grand Slam breakfasts over the new few months, but right now the conversation is dead.

    They generated a massive amount of buzz for a day. That’s not enough to merit the money that they spent on the ad and free meals. That’s what the post about it. The conversation they didn’t create it and how they could have improved it.

    I hadn’t seen the other post you referenced. Thanks for bringing to my attention. We didn’t have a blog up on February 2nd and this was something I had been thinking about. I’m sorry if you feel it was too overlapped.

    I look forward to your next photoshopped picture of me over at SEOmoz.

  • Sean Maguire

    @Pat – What? I can’t disagree with this post or the assessment without being accused of having my head up my ass, or having a bad day? Give me a break.

    Maybe “We can dish it out but we can’t take it Media”, would be a better name.

  • Lisa Barone

    I posted the above comment before Sean came back for Round 2. I didn’t see that post and I certainly didn’t rip it off. That accusation is ridiculous. I haven’t ripped off a blog post in 3 years. I have no reason to start now.

  • Patrick Sexton

    sean, sorry if that came across bad. I have no problem with a disagreement with thoughts or ideals and we both know from a long history over at SEOmoz that we are both people who can give and take and respectfully put forth different opinions. The respect I have for you is based on the fact that you can disagree respectfully. I had a problem with the personal accusations, not with your ideas. I do not think it was appropriate to go after a person and accuse them of it. You didn’t say “there was a remarkably similar post on this, Lisa, Have you seen it?” You said “As for your post, it’s nothing more than a ripoff from another article” and you said “Perhaps you should change the company name to “Regurgitated Media”.”

    These are not very respectable ways to communicate, and I was surprised because my experience with you is that you normally are very respectful and professional and humorous.

    It tripped me out is all, and I got no respect for shit like that.

  • Patrick Sexton

    Actually Sean, Fuck you.
    What I said was…
    “Sean? Bad day or something? You know well there is nothing that Lisa does that is regurgitated or ripped off.”
    If you read that you would know I wasn’t criticizing your disagreements with the post, I was disagreeing with you being a fucking asshole.

  • Rae Hoffman

    Sean, you can disagree with the post and sentiments all you want. The second you accuse someone of ripping off a post idea, it’s a different ballgame. The second you call my company regurgitated media because you have a problem with one of my partners for personal reasons you don’t mention in this post, it’s a different ballgame.

    Of course she didn’t search for “dennys grand slam campaign”. She likely searched for denny’s superbowl or denny’s superbowl commercial or denny’s superbowl ads or one of the other top 150 phrases that revolve around Denny’s or “grand slam” for this month (Google offers a free keyword tool in case you ever need it, hope that helps you out). Just because she wrote a post on SEO does not mean she did a search for “monkey balls SEO” or any other obscure phrase you desperately are searching for to accuse her of ripping off the post because it fits into your personal agenda. THAT is why you’re an asshat, not because you disagree with her.

    At least I was nice in my first comment and didn’t point out that your comment:

    I would venture to guess that tens or hundreds of thousands, will visit Denny’s a second, third, fourth time, etc., due to a favorable dining experience and a desire to reward Denny’s goodwill.

    Shows that you obviously have never even been to Denny’s.

  • Joe Hall

    I don’t see Lisa ripping anything off here. The truth is that on the internet if you follow the saying “you are one in a million” then that means there’s like a couple hundred people just like you! So duplicate content will show up on occasion just because of simple probability.

    With that said, I would like to chime in with my two cents and say that in my honest opinion Google Trends is a bad way to monitor conversations. It is an awesome way to monitor general interest and often times can be a great tool in revealing some really cool info. But to really search and monitor conversations, social media monitoring tools are much more appropriate because they actually gauge “talk”. Many times data from Google Trends will parallel data taken from social media monitoring tools, because generally interest means conversation. However, on occasion users will talk a great deal about a topic and never run a search query.

    There are many new social media monitoring tools out there, and I would be happy to share with anyone here, one of my favorites!

  • streko

    Shows that you obviously have never even been to Denny’s.

    Quoted for truth.

    The one in Jersey I have been to, your elbows stuck to the table & the menu had every flavor of syrup the store had to offer on it.

    Including……… lamesauce.

  • Michelle Diane

    Maybe it’s just me, but I would have held Denny’s in higher esteem if they’d given away a free breakfast to people who really needed it rather than people who can afford it anyway but just wanted something free. Maybe they could have delivered free breakfasts to homeless shelters or other places that could have benefited. I’d be more inclined to give a company some of my hard-earned money if I felt they were contributing more to the community rather than just making a grab for publicity, and an ill-conceived one at that. Again, that’s just me.

    Regarding the equally ill-conceived accusation of “ripping off” the post, sure, anyone can disagree with anything they like. But it seems to me that comment violated the one rule in the comment policy, which is not to be a jerk. There are more intelligent, polite ways to point things out and disagree with people. This just comes off sounding bitter, which just makes me dismissive. And I think if any content that exists on the internet existed in only one place, if only one person ever had any one idea, the internet would be a much smaller, quieter, less interesting place.

  • Rhea

    Don’t forget about the racial discrimination issues… favorable dining experience, but ONLY if you pay first:

    For the record, Lisa has no reason to regurgitate something someone else wrote. It’s a really big Internets and as marketers, of course we’re familiar with similar tools and in this case we’re measuring mentions so Google Trends makes the most sense.

    As for the title… let’s try to think of football terms that call to mind imagery of mistakes… hmm… if this was a game of Scattergories I think we’d all land on the same word: FUMBLE.

    Sean, I get how you could jump to that conclusion, but it’s easy enough to ask nicely. :)

  • Sean Maguire

    Well, I’m certainly not going to get into an extended battle of words here, but I guess since I’m being profanely bashed both here and on twitter, it at least merits a response:

    @Lisa – Pardon my “outspoken” comment, as opposed to taking Pat Sexton’s suggested path of complete and utterly un-challenging diplomacy. It appears to me that there are very significant parallels between these two posts. So, I made an accusation. It’s not the end of the world. I’ll take you at your word that you hand’t seen the other one – not that it matters.

    @Pat – Thanks for clarifying that.

    @Rae – I’m not sure what you are referring to re: personal issues. Although I’ve never met Lisa personally, I actually enjoy reading her posts and find her to be an engaging writer. I have absolutely nothing against her and have congratulated and encouraged her success on both blog comments and twitter DM’s.

    I just happened to disagree with her assessment and when I saw the other post I referenced, it struck me as being a knockoff.

  • cw360

    Interesting post. Less interesting downward spiral back the high school in the comments.

    It would be best to point out that buzz did not continue on the internet after the ad but that may not have been the goal.

    Let me offer a hypothetical:

    Lets assume Denny’s did not go blindly into spending millions (the 3 mil buy was probably the beginning), they may have done some research before pursuing this campaign. It may have been possible that Denny’s found people in their target markets used to be customers but just needed some encouragement to come back. It may also be possible that those customers are not internet savvy. Otherwise they might be advertising wi-fi in all our locations or something.

    I am trying to make two points:

    First, we do not entirely know what Denny’s was up to and we will not know if it worked until we get a look at their financial statements going forward.

    Second, this post and subsequent dialogue is a victim of a mistake many SEM people make. We often consider our medium to be all important. Then we blast companies for their “failure” when in reality the internet strategy may have purposefully been excluded.

  • Rae Hoffman

    >>>as opposed to taking Pat Sexton’s suggested path of complete and utterly un-challenging diplomacy.

    Bullshit. There is a difference between challenging the post sentiment and suggesting the name of the company be changed to “regurgitated media” and stating, as fact, that Lisa’s post ripped off some obscure one no one had ever heard of before you found it.

    Here’s an idea dude. Try having half the balls I do and standing behind your statements instead of claiming you were just “disagreeing” rather than being on the offensive and accusatory.

    And yes, I’m sure Lisa finds photoshopped photos making fun of her extremely supportive.

    Well, I’m certainly not going to get into an extended battle of words here

    Good, cause you’re unarmed and ill-prepared.

  • Megan Slick

    Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, an extremely renowned advertising agency in San Francisco came up with this campaign for Denny’s. I mention this because:

    “Goodby, Silverstein & Partners was named “Agency of the Year” by both Advertising Age and AdWeek magazines last year and also won more Gold Effies (the American Marketing Associations awards for advertising effectiveness) for their clients than any other agency. GS&P has a long history of creating successful Super Bowl commercials.”
    -Denny’s Press Release found at

    This advertising agency is hugely successful and have been around for a long time. Also the Super Bowl & free breakfasts were only part of their campaign:

    “In addition to airing on the Super Bowl, the TV spots – with voice-overs provided by Burt Reynolds – will air widely on national network and cable television. The campaign is a multi-media effort and will extend into print, radio, outdoor billboards, Internet, and in-store merchandising.”
    – Denny’s Press Release found at

    It will be interesting to see how they integrate the other forms of media into this campaign. Especially the internet. There might be a great cause for a follow up post. I think only time will tell how successful this campaign really is for Denny’s.

    On another note, Jon Steel, Vice Chairman & Director of Account Planning of Goodby, Silvertein & Partners wrote an excellent book called: Truth, Lies & Advertising. I highly recommend it.

  • Rae Hoffman

    If they really put Denny’s food in 2,157,400 people’s mouths and reminded people that there’s another alternative called Denny’s I think they succeeded.

    @oilivier making a wide statement like that is like saying if you spend 3 million to get 3 million visitors to your website, then the 3 million spend was a success… not really. Change qualified traffic to traffic from a Digg or Slashdot and the success quickly becomes a failure.

    This advertising agency is hugely successful and have been around for a long time.

    @megan I’m a damn good SEO and Internet marketer and can drive a lot of traffic to a website, but if that website fails to convert those visitors into users, then while my marketing efforts may have been hugely successful, the same campaign will have been a failure in regards to ROI.

    that, folks, is the problem with Denny’s and why they are STILL irrelevant. They are mostly old and dirty and stink inside. Giving away their pretty good tasting food for free is like putting lipstick on a pig.

    I think Al sums it up well.

    I don’t care what Google trends says. I don’t care how successful they were at driving people to their restaurants that day. I don’t care how talented their marketing team is. Large scale, small scale advertising – doesn’t matter. Denny’s cannot convert because the core of their relevancy problem lies in their product (dirty restaurants, low paid staff that takes no pride in the restaurants or in their offerings and an atmosphere that screams truck stop, not restaurant), not in their reach or advertising message. And the success of any advertising campaign comes down to conversions in the very end.

    My two cents…

  • Todd Heim

    Wow, some heated debates, here! Denny’s didn’t do EVERYTHING right with this campaign, (i.e. online promotion) but it certainly created the most lasting buzz from the superbowl. Not to mention the only one with ANY kind of feedback (marketing GOLD) .

    ROI from a branding/promotion like this one is generally calculated from overall sales taken over a longer period of time with weight given to dates closer to the promotion. Compare those numbers to the previous year’s (adding inflation) and subtract the marketing cost difference. If you’re still positive after all that, it was worth it.

    @Sean: 200k+ articles on this campaign and you pick the second of two people criticizing it, of “ripping off” the idea? FAIL.

  • Megan Slick

    @Rae I was not refuting what Lisa said in the article. I was just bringing another talking point to the table, there is more to come in the campaign (which wasn’t included in the article) and that Goodby, Silverstein & Partners is a reputable advertising agency that has had a great deal of success (meaning possibly this campaign could do very well for Denny’s given time). I do not disagree with, “[Denny’s having] dirty restaurants, low paid staff that takes no pride in the restaurants or in their offerings and an atmosphere that screams truck stop, not restaurant.” Denny’s should really work on that since they are throwing all kinds of money on marketing.

  • Sean Maguire

    @Rae – The photoshopping was absolute tongue in cheek and with no disrespect at all toward Lisa. Since based on your comment it may seem Lisa felt it was disrespectful, I’ll go ahead and pull it. I thought the picture and story was funny – and Lisa has a pretty good sense of humor.

    As for having half the balls you have – I didn’t back off my comment at all. I called it exactly what it was – an accusation. Check my comment.

    So, I made a mistake and went overboard with the accusation and name change suggestion. My sincere apologies to you Lisa. Sometimes outspoken people go too far or off base. In this case, it appears I achieved both.

    I’m not sure that the best way to respond to my mistake was to call me a douchebag, asshat, and any other number of expletives, but I guess that’s how things go sometimes.

  • streko

    god i miss threadwatch.

    @pmac – I too enjoy bacon. a lot.

  • Dan Leonardo

    @streko @pmac I like sausages… (had to do it)

  • Rae Hoffman

    @megan Oh, I knew you were just bringing a different viewpoint… wasn’t “arguing” your comment… just taking the info you gave to make a point of my own :)

  • Shawn Rosko

    Excellent post but I don’t agree 100% only because Denny’s does not need the internet traffic. people would normally google to find the closest Denny’s after the commercial but once they know where that is why do they need to search for it again? I know to me the nannerpuss commercial was very annoying but for many people it was very catchy and sticks in their heads for quite a while, which shows that they were successful at helping to promote their brand with a goofy commercial. I am sure they made plenty of new customers out of it but many of these cannot be measured with any tools we would use in the search industry. Just search for “nannerpuss” and you see many results that are all very relevant to this day – nannerpuss

  • Shane Arthur


    I’ve never seen a comment from you before ANYWHERE; nor have I heard of your business. You set the tone, so let me return the volley.

    You’re website is so 1.0. Nobody in your organization shows their picture. I think I speak for many when I say, I trust the gals at Outspoken more than I do you’re faceless self (and I’ve only known about the gals for several months).

    I’D say your site is the Denny’s of the Internet. Where’s the blog? Where’s the personal feel? Where’s the character?

    You’re comment here looks like the equivelent of Denny’s saying McDonalds sucks instead of Denny’s trying to use their energies to better their own product.

    He who is without sin (and a blog running Thesis), cast the first stone. Everyone else, be nice or shut the F up.

    Just my two cents.

  • Lisa Barone

    Shawn: That’s actually a really great point. I should have checked the trending for the commercial-related terms more carefully. I’m still not convinced that these commercials helped them in any way, but I guess time will tell. Thanks for bringing that up. :)

    Everyone else, it’s a new day, let’s get this thread back on track, eh? :)

  • mark

    their conversation level has doubled from before the super bowl

  • Rae Hoffman

    @Brian Combs

    Interesting observation… I didn’t see the superbowl ads you guys did because I lived in Canada, but thanks to the Internet I was able to find out who advertised and below are links to Google Trends charts for:

    Dennys, Coke Zero, Pedigree, Cheetos and Hulu
    Dennys, Bridgestone, Pepsi, Bud Light and Pepsi Max
    Dennys,, Godaddy, Dreamworks and HR Block

    Kinda looks like all superbowl advertising is a waste – at least if you’re looking to stay “up” in Google trends. ;-)

  • Feydakin

    To add to what Shawn said, I’m not sure that anyone can say if the campaign was successful or not except Denny’s.. And I would wager that they will wait months or more to decide.. I doubt that the point of the ad was to gain internet traffic but rather to get butts in seats..

    If over the next 3 months they get more customers than they had the previous year, or even hold even in the current state of the economy, this will be viewed as a staggering success.. But we won’t know until Denny’s release sales numbers..

  • Bob Weber


    Denny’s must have inspired somebody. IHOP had a free breakfast today in honor of National Pancake Day

    It would be interesting to see a comparison of the two promotions.

  • Lisa Barone

    Bob: Yes, I am sure IHOP stole that idea from Denny’s. It’s not like people have been offering people free meals since, well, forever. ;)

    The IHOP promotion is actually a lot more interesting than the Denny’s one. Unlike Denny’s, IHOP gave you a story. They’ll give you free pancakes and let *you* help needy children. Because that’s the kind of company they are. They made you the hero in their fable about sick children. You’re likely to remember that.

    Denny’s gave you nothing.