Denny’s changes ad agency, tries Super Bowl buy

SPARTANBURG S.C. Denny’s Corp., battling negative same-store sales at its 1,541-unit family chain, replaced advertising agency Publicis Mid America with Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and said it would make a first-ever Super Bowl ad buy.

GS&P of San Francisco will handle brand strategy, creative work and promotions, while media buying remains with Optimedia, according to sources at Spartanburg-based Denny’s. They said the new agency “is charged with re-energizing the Denny’s brand through aggressive advertising and marketing,” including a 30-second commercial during Super Bowl XLIII on Feb. 1, which is expected to draw nearly 100 million viewers.

“Denny’s has long been top-of-mind with American consumers with over 90 percent brand awareness,” said Nelson Marchioli, Denny’s chief executive. Noting that his chain wants to “reconnect with those consumers who have wonderful memories of the brand,” he added, “GS&P understands our guests, their needs, wants and moods and what we need to do to reach them now.”

Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, a unit of Omnicom Group, also represents Sprint, Frito Lay and Hyundai, among others. The agency, which once created and aired in a single day TV commercials with date stamps to underscore the freshness of foods sold by client Chevys FreshMex restaurants, also has worked in the past with Carl’s Jr. Pizza Hut and Subway.

GS&P takes over for Denny’s at a time when many full-service restaurant chains are struggling with falling guest traffic tied to the recession and inroads into some dayparts, such as breakfast, by fast feeders.

For the quarter ended in September, Denny’s said same-store sales declined by 2.7 percent at its 332 company restaurants, compared to growth of 1.3 percent a year ago, and fell by 6.1 percent at the chain’s 1,206 franchised units, compared to growth of 3.2 percent in 2007. Guest traffic at the chain was down by 8.8 percent for the quarter, compared to a drop of 4.5 percent 12 months earlier, it said.