Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Famine Is Not A Shortage

I'm always amazed at how very, very few good commercials there are out there. It's not that hard to capture the interest of the viewing public. All you really need is some sort of talking animal and we're hooked. Any variation from that theme and you're really playing with fire. But some commercials are just so absolutely ridiculous that I find it amazing that anyone ever thought that they were a good idea in the first place.

My case in point here today is a Denny's advertisement which I, sadly, have yet to view. It has apparently disappeared from the airwaves and it has disappeared from online. (I didn't know it was possible to make something completely disappear online. Is it only things that aren't naked that can completely disappear?) But the fine folks over there at Asylum were kind enough to fill us in on the details of not only a commercial, but also a promotion that I find simply inexplicable.

Apparently, the often roadside and frequent neighbor of La Quinta restaurant chain "...was offering unlimited pancakes and fries". Really?? I am a big fan of pancakes and an even bigger fan of fries. And what am I really a fan of? Both of those things in an unlimited quantity, that is correct. But why would they be offering such a remarkable feast? Why, "...to mark the 150th anniversary of Ireland's potato famine." Oh. Awkward.

Wait a minute. Didn't, um, like...oh....a million or so folks die from the potato famine? Yep, I think they did. And Denny's felt the need to commemorate this with unlimited food?! That seems ill advised at best. (By the way, what do pancakes have to do with it? Potato pancakes? I mean, the whole idea is not good to begin with, so maybe that's why I don't get why pancakes are included. The whole thing doesn't make sense, so they might as well throw the pancakes in, I guess. I'm pretty sure there was never a Pancake Famine.)

Were the folks in the advertising department unclear as to the meaning of the word "famine"? I'm thinking they got it confused with the word "shortage". There was a potato shortage in Ireland in 1849, 1850, somewhere around there. But it's not like the shortage didn't have consequences. Hence the term famine! WHO thought this was a good promotion? (And how in the world did they remove all instances of that ad from the freaking Internet?! That might be the real story here!)

Of course, a Facebook page protesting this and claiming that Denny's hates the Irish has popped up. (I'm not including a link to it because the wall of said page seems to be full of idiots commenting and isn't really worth a link from here. There is a link to it on the Asylum page that I linked to above if you need a good dose of idiots ranting about nothing.) For God's sake, can nothing happen in this world any more without a freaking Facebook page being created by some mouth breathing paste eater who thinks that they're making a difference by doing so? The page currently has 1,860 members. There are approximately 36,000,000 Americans with Irish heritage in this country of about 350,000,000. There's not exactly a national uproar about this is my point.

Do I think Denny's hates the Irish? Um, no. I don't. Do I think that anyone at Denny's in their advertising department should lose their job over this? Um, no. I don't. It was a rather ridiculous idea, I'll give it that. But the thing is, it's not like just one person is responsible for this inane-ness. I'm guessing that there were at least several people involved in the creating and filming and approving of this ad. Several. How is it that not ONE of those folks saw this and said, "Um, say...you know, I think a lot of people died during that little tater problem they had over there. I don't know if we should be offering free french fries to mark the anniversary of a bunch of people starving to death. And by the way, what in the world do pancakes have to do with it?" Why did no one think that? How many people thought this was a good idea and why?

According to The Irish Echo Online, one of their readers who saw the ad (and inexplicably felt the need to write, not to Denny's, but to The Irish Echo Online) wrote, "What's next, free latkes for the holocaust?" Ohhh. Dark. But point well made. Seriously. What's next, Denny's? Got anything to commemorate the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation? I'm going to let you insert your own joke here (I'm a little bit afraid to do it myself, as I get enough wacky email as it is) as you think about how well that would go over.

In summation, I'm pretty sure that Denny's does not hate the Irish. (And if they did, I'm really sure that they wouldn't go around advertising it.) They probably need to be a tad more discerning about the talent that they hire in the advertising department. (Perhaps a history major for consulting purposes. Lord knows they can use the work.) But other than that, they're just Denny's. That pretty much sums it up. Oh, but if you know where this ad can be viewed online, please let me know. I'm dying to see it. And more importantly, if you know how to completely and entirely remove something from the Internet, let me know! I find that aspect absolutely fascinating.

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Anonymous said...

As the reader quoted in the Irish Echo, I thought I would answer one of your rhetorical questions. Rest assured, Denny's was first on my contact list followed by some social circles. Not only did I e-mail Denny's, but I contacted them via Facebook and Twitter as well.

The Echo was a last minute thought and accomplished exactly what I had desired. When the Echo ran with the story, it gained coverage (you included). The Echo story was then expanded and then picked up by lots of other locations. Ultimately, Denny's was forced to pull the commercial and issue an apology. An apology that was weak at best and actually made the situation worse (the boycott Denny's groups sprung up following the apology).

I agree with you that Denny's does not hate the Irish (at least not openly) and that this was not just the responsibility of one person. From concept to air, there must have been 20 or 30 people that had the ability to stop this. And for Denny's to claim they had not known about the ad was silly to even say. Simply put, Denny's didn't bother to check the history books before airing this commercial. I am sure they knew that a lot of people died because of the potato blight (which that alone should have stopped the humor in this), but clearly they didn't know the full story (I won’t go into it as you can do a Wikipedia or Facebook search and gain that info). Yes my Holocaust point was dark (I never thought they would print that), but the Famine is the Irish equivalent to the Holocaust. It was a forced hunger that conveniently had devastating effects.

I had hoped Denny’s would have been smart and done far more than their silly apology. They should have donated money or something to a hunger organization somewhere. Do something that shows that they actually understood what they had done. Clearly they thought this was just another attempt at using humor in their advertising and they were only sorry because they got hit from all sides about it. I can find the “apology” for you if you haven’t seen it yet.

Mare said...


First of all, I really appreciated your comment about the Holocaust. Dark, perhaps. Sarcastic and on point, absolutely. Well done.

I did read the Denny's apology. I don't know if I'd call it "weak" or if I'd call it "standard". It's hard to apologize for something and be overly sincere when you don't really know what you did wrong in the first place.

I still don't think that Denny's hates the Irish, openly or not. I can understand why they didn't make a donation of some sort to some hunger organization, though. I'm assuming it's because whenever a company does do something like that in light of a faux pas such as this one, it's always seen as a patronizing gesture. No one ever thinks more of a company for making amends with a kind gesture. I don't know why it's that way, but that's just how it seems to be. Thus, from a corporate standpoint (NOT a compassionate one), their making amends by issuing a stock apology and pulling the ad is understandable.

Don't hold back whenever you're commenting on something (ie, the Holocaust comparison). That was a point well made and done so in a fashion that I, for one, can laugh with and admire. The fact that you're articulate and have a firm grasp on the English language and the ability to spell correctly (or to find the 'Spell check' button) definitely works in one's favor when making pithy remarks.

Thanks for commenting and thanks for reading. I totally appreciated your side of the comment and your opinion on the Denny's debacle.

~ Mary