A Taste for Breakfast and the Super Bowl



ALTHOUGH the term “grand slam” is associated with baseball rather than football, the restaurant chain that sells the Grand Slam breakfast — Denny’s — is becoming a Super Bowl advertiser for the first time.

Denny’s will run its first Super Bowl spot this year, and one under consideration has cowboys eating a “candy breakfast.”

The Denny’s Corporation is buying commercial time for a 30-second spot during Super Bowl XLIII, to be played on Feb. 1. The ad, scheduled for the third quarter, will be the first work for Denny’s from its new creative agency, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco, part of the Omnicom Group.

“If you want to go on the Super Bowl, with that large audience, you better have something to say,” said Mark Chmiel, chief marketing officer at Denny’s in Spartanburg, S.C.

The commercial will have a “consumer offer that is a first ever for sit-down restaurants,” Mr. Chmiel said, and it reinforces a message that Denny’s sells what he described as “real breakfast” rather than the “candy breakfast” served by competitors.

Mr. Chmiel declined to discuss further details before the spot appears. The commercial being considered has cowboys as characters; a 15-second spot, with gangster characters, will run in the postgame coverage.

Denny’s is joining a list of Super Bowl sponsors that includes other newcomers like Pedigree dog food and Teleflora, as well as returnees like Anheuser-Busch InBev, Cars.com, Coca-Cola, GoDaddy.com, Hyundai Motor America, PepsiCo and several movie studios.

Some marketers that have advertised during the Super Bowl in recent years are skipping this one for financial or other reasons; they include FedEx, Garmin, General Motors and Salesgenie.com.

NBC, which will present the game, is charging an estimated average of up to $3 million for 30 seconds of ad time during the game. The comparable price tag for the Super Bowl in February 2008, on Fox Broadcasting, was estimated at around $2.7 million.

“We think it’s worth that money,” Mr. Chmiel said, because of the size of the audience.

“Where else can I hit 97 million people?” he said, referring to the average viewership for Super Bowl XLII.

As the new Denny’s creative agency, Goodby, Silverstein will replace the Dallas office of Publicis Worldwide, part of the Publicis Groupe, after an account review that was limited to those two agencies, Mr. Chmiel said.

“They did a very good job with us,” Mr. Chmiel said of the Publicis ads, but “creatively we need it a little bit plussed-up.”

Goodby, Silverstein has a long list of Super Bowl credits for advertisers like Anheuser-Busch, Emerald nuts, E*Trade, Frito-Lay and Hyundai.

“I like the Super Bowl,” said Jeff Goodby, co-chairman at Goodby, Silverstein. “It’s TV’s last stand.”

“You get to act like it’s 1955 again,” he added, when the broadcast networks dominated the medium and everyone stayed tuned for the commercials rather than zapping them with remote controls or zipping through them with TiVos and other digital video recorders.

Goodby, Silverstein also has experience in creating campaigns for restaurant brands, among them Carl’s Jr., Chevys, Pizza Hut and Subway and, in the agency’s early days, Mr. Goodby recalled, a California chain named Velvet Turtle.

That will come in handy, too, as Denny’s faces a pair of daunting challenges. First, the breakfast category is more crowded than ever as Denny’s confronts not only longtime competitors like IHOP but also fast-food chains like Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s.

There are millions of people who “go to quick-service restaurants and eat in the restaurant,” Mr. Chmiel said. “That’s the Denny’s customer, but they sort of forget about us because of the billions of dollars in marketing spent by the quick-service restaurants.”

To counter the inroads made by the fast feeders, he added, Denny’s has introduced a sandwich based on the Grand Slam breakfast called the Grand Slamwich.

The other challenge for Denny’s is, of course, the economy, which is sending home countless consumers who once liked to go out to eat.

“What people dining out less often are looking for is something that really resonates with them,” Mr. Chmiel said, like value, convenience and tasty menu items.

Mr. Goodby said he believed that Denny’s was “the sort of down-home American place, not too expensive, that can continue to thrive in this environment.”

In creating the Super Bowl commercial, Mr. Goodby said, the agency plans to take an entertaining approach, which is “the right thing” for the national mood.

Still, Madison Avenue needs to be sensitive, he said, adding, “I don’t think it would be good to make jokes about people losing their jobs or not having enough money to purchase something.”

NBC, part of the NBC Universal division of General Electric, had a fast start in selling commercial time during Super Bowl XLIII. The network planned to sell 65 to 67 30-second ad slots in the game and about 80 to 85 percent were taken by September.

After the financial crisis erupted, however, the pace slowed, and some trade publications speculated about the ability of the network to sell the remaining time at premium prices. In the last month, more advertisers have bought commercials or have come forward to say they are buyers.

They include, in addition to Denny’s, General Electric, also a first-time advertiser; and the returning advertisers Audi, a division of Volkswagen; CareerBuilder, owned by a consortium of media companies; H & R Block, which will run a commercial by Campbell Mithun in Minneapolis, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies; and Monster.com, part of Monster Worldwide.

The trade publication Variety last week identified numerous movie studios that planned to be Super Bowl sponsors. Among them are DreamWorks Animation; Paramount, part of Viacom; Sony Pictures, part of the Sony Corporation of America; and Universal, a sibling of NBC.

The Walt Disney Company and the 20th Century Fox division of the News Corporation may also buy spots, Variety reported.