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Restaurants and the post-game wrap-up

3 min read


Restaurant companies by-and-large avoided spending $3 million for 30-second spots during Sunday’s Super Bowl, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t find other ways to get attention and tie their names to the big game.

Restaurant chains that had advertised in previous years begged off this time, including Papa John’s which shifted its focus to online contests, including one that could have potentially cost the company some serious dough, although not nearly as much as a Super Bowl spot. The company said it would give a free pizza to every single person who registered for its customer-loyalty program before kickoff – if the game went into overtime. That’s never happened in the past and didn’t happen this year, but Papa John’s got some press and perhaps some new loyalty program members. Rival chain Pizza Hut, meanwhile, had planned to make its debut as a Super Bowl advertiser this year but then pulled its spots at the last minute.

Denny’s dropped out after two years of pricey Super Bowl spots promoting the casual chain and its free Monday-morning Grand Slam breakfasts. Last month, CMO Frances Allen talked to Advertising Age about the rationale behind the decision not to advertise during the game this year, saying the previous years’ spots had done the job of re-introducing Denny’s to consumers and now the chain plans to spread its message more evenly throughout the year.  “The Super Bowl is a big splash and a way of getting noticed, but we’ve really found that our guests want consistent appreciation over time. We are giving back to them every day; we didn’t feel the need to do the one-hit wonder for the Super Bowl in 2011,” she told Ad Age.

Jack in the Box was the one restaurant chain that came through with a game-day commercial this year, creating an enthusiastically patriotic piece starring the chain’s round-headed mascot introducing a new All-American Jack Combo and ends with a cute twist, as the dome-topped dude dons a sombrero to celebrate Spring Break in Cancun – which guests can enter to win when they buy one of the combo meals. The trip, that is, not the hat.

One Chicago restaurant didn’t have to pay a penny in advertising to have its name and image prominently featured during the game. Himalayan Restaurant & Bar was the punch line of one of three Groupon spots that will likely be the subject of debate in many quarters for days, including some places in China. The spot starred actor Timothy Hutton and, like the daily deal site’s other two commercials, began on a serious note, this one spotlighting serious issues affecting the people of Tibet, then abruptly switches to the fish curry at Himalayan Restaurant in Chicago, where Hutton and 200 others dined on $30 worth of food for $15 courtesy of Groupon.

Twitter users began bashing Groupon for the spots almost immediately after they aired, and on Monday the company defended its choice by saying the spots harked back to the company’s roots as a charitable site and launching a new site where visitors can watch similar commercials and donate to one of four causes – including Tibet.

Were the Groupon spots a misstep? Do you think they’ll help or hurt the Himalayan Restaurant?

Image via mstahlphoto via iStock