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Dunkin’ turns to everyday Joes

Campaign pushes iced and hot coffee

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By D.C. Denison
Globe Staff / January 4, 2011

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Dunkin’ Donuts launched a multimillion-dollar national marketing campaign yesterday that features everyday Joes drinking its iced and hot coffee drinks.

The new campaign, which includes print, TV, and digital ads, is the chain’s latest effort to one-up its biggest rivals, Starbucks and McDonald’s, in the java wars. The ads mostly feature everyday people who were picked as part of a nationwide casting call in November, which drew 1,000 people.

Among the ads’ pitchmen are two firefighters from Georgia who, when asked, “What are you drinkin’?’’ respond: “I’m drinkin’ Dunkin’.’’

Dan Saia, vice president of consumer engagement at Dunkin’ Donuts, a unit of privately owned Dunkin’ Brands Inc. in Canton, said the campaign is designed to let real customers tell the Dunkin’ Donuts story.

The new campaign also highlights Dunkin’s iced coffee, with one spot dedicated to that segment of the business. Last year, the company rolled out its Iced Dunkin’ Dark Roast to undercut Starbucks and McDonald’s, which both have iced coffee drinks.

“Iced coffee is an emerging trend around the country,’’ Saia said. “So, you’ll see our spokespeople drinking hot and iced coffee, because it’s now a year-round beverage.’’

Separately, advocates for a “tip pooling’’ bill that would change the way tips are pooled at quick service restaurants, such as Dunkin’ Donuts, have one more chance today to get the Massachusetts state Legislature to work on new language that would clarify the law regarding what types of employees can share in the proceeds of tip jars that are fixtures on counters of many Dunkin’ Donut franchises.

The bill, backed by a group of Massachusetts Dunkin’ Donuts franchisees, would allow shift supervisors, or crew leaders, who often wait on customers, to share in the collected tips.

As it stands, the law is ambiguous on whether crew leaders are managers, and hence ineligible to share tips.

Yesterday, the bill was sent to the Senate after the House adopted an amendment offered by Governor Deval Patrick that refined the definition of manager, but state Senator Steven A. Tolman of Brighton objected to considering the bill in an informal session.

During informal sessions, a single objection is enough to stop consideration of a bill. Today is the last day the tip pooling bill can be considered before it has to be refiled in the next session, which starts tomorrow and would entail starting the process all over again.

Tolman, who also objected to the bill when it came up in an informal session last Thursday, said the bill “is of a magnitude that it should be considered in full formal session, where it can be debated, and where there would be the potential for a roll call vote.’’

Jim Coen, president of Dunkin’ Donuts Independent Franchise Owners Inc., an organization that represents the business interests of Dunkin’ Donuts franchisees, said the bill “is simply an attempt to help our hardworking crew leaders get a share of the tips they deserve.’’

In recent years, quick service restaurants, including Dunkin’ Donuts, have been sued by employees who contend that tips are being shared illegally with managers. Coen said that a new law is necessary to help clarify exactly which employees should be classified as managers.

“Because crew leaders do not have the authority to hire and fire and they actively participate in the service of customers, they are not part of management,’’ said Coen, who added that if the bill is not passed today, a new version will be introduced later this year.

Michelle King, a spokeswoman for Dunkin’ Brands, said any policies regarding tipping are made by franchise owners.

D.C. Denison can be reached at denison@globe.com.