If controversy can be good for business, the owner of one Toronto diner may be laughing all the way to the bank.
Or at least giggling uncontrollably.
Dangerous Dan's, a gritty Leslieville joint popular among big eaters and night crawlers, has launched an ad campaign calculated to cause offence, positioning itself as a purveyor of aggressively gluttonous fare that is perfect for addled recreational drug users.
The campaign includes three radio spots featuring a group of stoned people semi-incoherently ordering takeout food and chatting about the musical Grease and tattooed genitals.
Three other radio ads boast that some of the restaurant's more outrageously proportioned menu items have the potential to cause serious illness. One of those, for the so-called Coronary Burger Special, begins with a clinical description of a heart attack ("First, a blockage occurs in the arteries ... oxygen depletes...") before concluding with a narrator jauntily proclaiming: "Beef, bacon, cheddar, a fried egg - mmm, mmm, deadly."
The radio ads are airing only once each on the Ryerson University station CKLN, concluding Thursday. They are also posted on YouTube.
The campaign also includes six posters with pictures of the diner's massive sandwiches and provocative lines like, "While We Still Have Health Care," and "Meat is Murder. Tasty, tasty murder."
The campaign originated with a pair of employees at a local audio production house eager to do work that reached beyond the conservative sensitivities of most advertising clients, in hopes of submitting it to industry awards competitions.
They figured they had a willing partner in James McKinnon, the owner of Dangerous Dan's, who is known for instructing customers to place their orders with him because, "the waitress is dead."
"He likes being non-PC, he understands to be provocative is worth its weight in gold," said Drew Frohmann, a writer with Tattoo Sound + Music who said he was one of five people who recorded the stoner commercials while genuinely "baked."
"If you're trying to do something that's fun and interesting, that's a wonderful place to start."
The gross-out campaign comes in the wake of the fast-food chain KFC bringing to Canada its Double Down, a gut-busting bonanza of two fried chicken breasts, bacon, cheese, and sauce that contains 540 calories, 30 grams of fat, and 1,740 mg of sodium. KFC claimed 300,000 of the items were sold in its first 10 days on the menu.
Mr. McKinnon suggested economic pressures may be playing a part. "In a recession, you always hear that people order more comfort food, they order more desserts and stuff like that. They really are in this recession," he said. "So I think it's sort of a backlash against the whole healthy eating thing."
Promoting that stance also helps his restaurant stand out. "Nothing makes Dan happier than to [upset]a vegetarian," said Mr. Frohmann. "He'd love to have PETA picketing outside his place."
So far, no one is taking the bait. "The ads speak for themselves in their outrageousness," wrote Susan Sperling, a spokeswoman with Toronto Public Health, in an e-mail. "Clearly we have concerns about rising rates of obesity in our population and so we obviously have issues with the kind of food portrayed in these ads. However, we do not want to spend a lot of time engaging in discussion on something this outrageous and contributing to the publicity the restaurant is seeking."