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Denny's Raises the Ire of the Irish
By: Jeff Louis
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You may have read about Denny's botched Twitter launch last week. Well, it seems that Denny's has made the headlines once again for the wrong reasons, as the chain unveiled a campaign late last week centered around the Irish, St. Patrick's Day, and the Great Famine.

The commercial failed before getting off the ground; it seems the restaurant chain, in their effort to use freemiums, offended the Irish-American community with a spot that "celebrated" the end of Ireland's Great Famine by offering free pancakes and fries all day. Don't bother looking for it, for the commercial's been pulled and won't be broadcast on TV past today. 

Who knew the Irish would be so angered about a tragedy that decimated their country when it killed a million people and simultaneously forced millions more to leave? Ha, that's really funny.

What were they thinking?

While most will not see the commercial, it's the thought that counts. Certain historical events shouldn't be tackled with humorous advertising (such as the Holocaust, an assassination, or a natural disaster).

I know it sounds like a stretch, but human beings tend to respond emotionally in the face of such things. Obviously, Denny's didn't pay attention. (Neither did the World Wildlife Fund. A few months ago, they belittled the 9/11 terrorist attacks.)

Denny’s doesn't have a great track record when dealing with sensitive subjects. In 1994, the chain agreed to settle lawsuits for "more than  $54 million dollars filed by thousands of black customers who had been refused service or had been forced to wait longer or pay more than white customers."

In April 1993, six black Secret Service agents suffered discrimination as they waited for over an hour to be served at a Denny's in Annapolis, Maryland.

In April 1997, seven Syracuse University students -- six Asian-American and one white -- were ejected from a Denny's after complaining about not being served. Upon leaving, a mob of white customers beat them in the parking lot. The security guards who ejected the students did nothing to help as a couple of the Asian students were beaten unconscious. 

Irish Central, the online site of the Irish Voice and Irish America, called the commercial "disgraceful" and is urging for a boycott of the chain. They also want Denny's agency, Goodby, Silverstein and Partners to share in the blame. 

Denny's issued an apology:

"Denny's has a history of using humor in its television advertising. It is certainly not the intention of the company to offend anyone or any group and we apologize if this spot has in any way. As a result of the feedback we have received from our customers the spot will no longer be on the air after Tuesday. We thank those who took the time to contact us." 

However, the chain has been belittled for not taking responsibility regarding what the Irish consider to be the darkest time in their history. I'd have to agree that Denny's apology is weak at best.

While the spot is nowhere to be found, the outcry has already made its way to the pages of Facebook. Although most have not seen the spot, it's doubtful the boycott of the chain will result in any lasting damage to Denny's. 

When your company's tagline is "Diversity: It's written all over our faces," it might be wise to test advertising that is remotely close to the subjects of race, racism, or nationality. I'm just saying.


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About the Author

Jeff Louis: Media Planner, Brand Project Manager, blogger, and aspiring writer. Please leave a comment or get in touch with Jeff on Twitter. As always, thank you for reading!

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