Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Nurse the Hate: The Denny's Turd Sausage Fiasco

In the photograph above please behold the splendor of the new Denny’s mascot “Sausage”.  This logo took off like wildfire, though not exactly in the way that Denny’s imagined as people instantly equated it with a hat wearing turd.  This is probably not what the national restaurant chain with rather questionable food quality was shooting for in paying outside "experts" to help them drive business.

I absolutely love to speculate on how disasters like this can slowly come to fruition in corporate culture.  For those of you not blessed to work within a corporation, here’s how this process would have worked.  Denny’s would have told their advertising agency, who appears to be EP and Company, that they needed to reach some sort of oblique goal, like “freshening up the look and feel of Denny’s”. A small group of people at the agency would have brainstormed up a few ideas and then presented these ideas to the heads of the ad agency.  I don’t know if the chief creative officer came up with or took ownership of this cartoon mascot idea at this point or not, but my guess is that he did.  The other employees, well aware like any normal human being that they were about to make a piece of shit a shitty restaurant mascot, were more eager to avoid disagreeing with the boss than avoid the obvious catastrophe of a hat wearing turd suggesting you eat at Denny’s.

There would have been meetings after meetings after meetings internally at the agency where I have no doubt the worker bees tasked with doing the nuts and bolts of making cardboard turd standups and happy turds on the menu would have been laughing about it amongst themselves knowing full well that the client, Denny’s themselves, would kill it at the meeting to get approval.  Then, something unbelievable happened.  Denny’s approved it.

Whoever the account executive is at the agency that sold that shit (literally) to Denny’s is maybe the best salesperson I have ever seen.  I tried to think how I would have done it when the inevitable question from a stodgy Denny’s board member came up of “Hey, doesn’t that sausage guy look like a… a…  well, a turd?”.  I would have gone with making a murky correlation with the movie Sausage Party and thrown stats at it that made the Denny’s guy feel foolish for questioning the concept.  “Well Jim, we based it on the cartoon sausage from the movie “Sausage Party”.  Are you familiar with that film Jim?  It grossed $178 million dollars Jim.  People like sausage Jim.  And now people will translate the love of that movie to a love of Denny’s.  Now let’s move on to our menu re-design…”

The Denny’s people, likely filled with a certain post purchase anxiety after green lighting the idea, all went back to their offices thinking “Well, everyone else liked it.  I don’t want to say anything, but that sausage looks like a turd.”  They then wrote various memos trying to distance themselves from the upcoming campaign that on the surface looked like they were praising other co-workers.  “Congrats to Jim and his department for all the hard work they did with our advertising agency in the new design launch.  Though I wasn’t as involved as I would have liked to have been…”  The key was to leave the door open to plausible deniability later when The Turd Situation blew up.

Now that the internet has gone wild, I would imagine that Jim and the folks from Denny’s have taken the offensive.  If I was Jim, I would go with a variation of the “Godammit!  You people are supposed to be the experts on this stuff!  It’s why we pay you!  How are you going to fix this!”  They will thunder on and make threats, most of which they will make good on at some point.  The ad agency account executive who sold this through is getting absolutely pummeled today.  Likely he then went back to the creative team that made the turd mascot in the first place demanding edits of some kind, this although Denny’s would have already printed approximately 52 million of these menus and cardboard standups for their locations.  That bill is going to be a tough check to write.  The creative team will be in full bunker mode and likely deferring everything possible to the creative director, who is likely going to try to blame the AE suggesting “We gave him what he said he wanted”.  This will lead to a power struggle between the account executive and the creative director.  The creative director is one of the principals of the agency.  He will win this power struggle.  The AE will likely be banished from the agency.  Still, let me make this clear… 

That was the single best sale of all time.     


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home