How Domino’s and CP+B Have Endured in an Era of Declining Trust Between Agencies and Clients

Chain announced a 3-year contract extension

The company has taken advantage of a recent ecommerce boom.
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Today Domino’s Pizza made a somewhat unusual announcement: it will be extending its decade-long contract with agency of record Crispin Porter + Bogusky until 2020.

The relationship between the Ann Arbor, Mich.,-based pie chain and the Boulder, Colo., ad agency remains something of an outlier. Consolidation has been the operative ad industry word in recent years, with holding companies setting up units dedicated to single clients, while big spenders like P&G and McDonald’s trim their agency rosters.

“There are clients, agencies and true partnerships,” CP+B Boulder managing director Devin Reiter told Adweek. “We’ve always looked at ourselves as an extension of their marketing and digital teams.”

Since CP+B replaced JWT as the pizza chain’s agency of record in 2007, Domino’s has consistently expanded its market share while gaining attention via stunts and innovations that range from a self-driving delivery robot and a cheesy wedding registry to the order-by-emoji effort that won a Titanium Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions Festival in 2015.

As of the middle of this year, Domino’s had racked up 25 consecutive quarters of U.S. sales growth, and some analysts estimate that it may overtake Pizza Hut as the leading limited-service pizza brand later this year. A March Bloomberg profile attributed much of that shift to marketing.

If one could distill Domino’s continued success down to a single word, it would be “digital.” Sixty percent of Domino’s orders in the U.S. now come via one of its many available platforms, and the company’s own executives have long called it an ecommerce company that happens to sell pizza.

“When consumer behavior started changing … Domino’s really capitalized on that,” said Reiter. “Rather than hoping consumers would come to us, we flipped the lens and said, let’s go where they are.”

That meant focusing on delivery at all levels of the organization, not just its marketing department. Reiter noted that, when discussing Domino’s drivers with CMO Joe Jordan recently, he recalled that 90 percent of franchisees started in delivery roles. “There’s a huge aspirational opportunity there,” he said.

“Lengthy creative agency partnerships are rare, to say the least. But after looking at what we’ve accomplished with CP+B, it should not be shocking,” read a statement from client CMO Joe Jordan. “We’re looking forward to creating the next series of game-changing ideas together.”

Both Jordan and Reiter cited a sense of “uncommon honesty” between agency and client. “We never look to create the next big thing,” Reiter said. “It really comes down to what’s going to drive effectiveness for the brand in a way no one else can capitalize on.”

Crispin has continued making “traditional” broadcast ads while also developing all the latest tech toys to help Domino’s clear the path from your smartphone to your front door. Recent campaigns illustrate that duality.

In May, the agency remade a certain iconic scene from the 1986 classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in a hero spot promoting the client’s latest digital innovation: a “Tracker” that syncs any number of digital devices and apps to respond at different stages in the delivery process.

Did it represent a true sea change in the QSR industry? No. But it was fun, it got the brand a lot of attention and it stands as an ideal illustration of the relationship between agency and client.

“Maybe [our Domino’s partnership] will signal a change in the industry, as opposed to these one year, hope-for-the-best deals,” said Reiter. “When you invest in each other, you can both win.”

Domino’s spent $353 million on paid media in the U.S. last year and $177 million during the first half of 2017, according to Kantar Media.