Breakfast Stumping

By Apr 01, 2008

Denny’s is playing off the current political season with a marketing campaign that urges people to vote, not for the remaining presidential candidates, but for a “real” breakfast.

At the center of the ploy is an interactive Web site www.Vote4real.com where visitors watch an animated video debate, dubbed the “Great Breakfast Debate ’08.” It pits one of Denny’s Grand Slam Breakfast (pancakes, eggs and bacon) against an empty, gibberish-speaking Styrofoam container that represents “fake” or fast food breakfast.

On the site, visitors select from a list of prepared questions, to which the animated breakfasts aurally respond (i.e., talk). People can choose their preferred meal through Nov. 4 — not coincidentally, Election Day.

“We are really ramping up promotional efforts in 2008 and taking it in a different direction,” says Michael Polydoroff, director of sales promotion and licensing for Denny’s. “This new campaign has opened up possibilities for our brand to get a little bit scrappy.”

Offline, Denny’s is hitting the streets with guerrilla marketing activities in 15 markets. Street teams this month will target San Antonio, TX, during the Final Four of the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament, asking people to cast their vote.

To coincide with the April 22 primary in Pennsylvania, Denny’s is decking out its restaurants in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with in-store signage and merchandise tied to the campaign.

Brand ambassadors will hand out coupons for free coffee with the purchase of a Denny’s breakfast. Video footage from the activities is available on the microsite.

Denny’s is also erecting in major cities non-branded election-themed signage touting “Stand up for Real” and “Real in 08,” while giving the Vote4Real.com URL. The signs are being placed purposely near Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama banners.

“We are trying to pique people’s curiosity and position ourselves as a viable candidate [to other fast-food competition],” Polydoroff says. “The electoral year added fuel to the fire.”

In-store, Denny’s associates are talking up the campaign, wearing buttons that encourage patrons to “Cast Your Vote for Real” and placing receipt stickers with the promotional Web site in diners’ checks. Lawn signs at area Denny’s also support the campaign.

Following the Final Four outcome, street teams will be out in force in May in Los Angeles and San Francisco, CA, and targeting voters at other well-attended events, such as the Taste of Chicago in June and the popular Independence Day parade in Washington, D.C.

On July 4, Denny’s will kick off a sweepstakes on the microsite offering a trip for two to Washington, D.C., to attend the presidential inaugural parade in January.

The campaign is targeting a wide swath of the public — people 18-55. Executed by Publicis Mid America and Publicis PR, the effort is an extension of the casual dining chain’s “Don’t Fall for Fake” campaign, which launched in January.

Polydoroff admits the plan is “aggressive” for Denny’s, and one of the chain’s largest investments in a PR marketing stunt, he says.

Declining to reveal specifics, Polydoroff says, “the budget is unlike anything we have spent when it comes down to a promotion. But we just needed to standout from the competition. We want to get people talking, have them laugh a little bit and say, ‘I believe that looks good. I want to go to Denny’s.’ At end of the day, it is all about engaging in our brand.”

Denny’s is also using the campaign to promote its Breakfast Club, an e-mail marketing program. Members receive coupon offers, company news and promotions. Since October, when the program launched, nearly 100,000 people have signed up, Polydoroff says.

With only a month into the campaign, the voting continues. Denny’s is planning a big splash on Nov. 5 to reveal America’s real breakfast winner. Though it’s early in the game, Denny’s, for now, is coming out on top.

“We’re winning by a landslide right now,” Polydoroff laughs.

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