CiCi’s Gives Penny Pinchers a ‘Picker Upper’

CiCi’s pizza chain has launched a recession-appropriate promotion called “Penny Picker Upper,” which rewards consumers who find specially marked pennies outside its restaurants with free meals.

The effort kicks off today (Monday) via a television, radio and digital push from ad agency Deutsch, Los Angeles. The family restaurant chain has dropped a million pennies offering a free meal, drink or buy-one-pizza-get-one-free deal on sidewalks near its 650 eateries across the U.S. The offers are printed on the pennies.

One 30-second TV spot shows a customer so enthused by his lucky find that he jumps atop a rotating pedestal. Meanwhile the voiceover says: “A found penny isn’t just a penny. It’s the world’s tiniest trophy.” The call to action is reinforced in the same spot: “There’s a penny out there with your name on it.”

Eric Hirshberg, president and chief creative officer at Deutsch, said the agency recently completed a major study examining the economy’s effects on consumers, and so, the idea was born to use the often-overlooked penny to address consumer focus on value.

“We realized that as a value brand, we had to take some action,” and with the penny, “many people just walk by it and don’t look at it as money anymore,” said CiCi’s CMO Tom Koenigsberg. “It may be a penny, but it’s still money and money is cool. As a brand, we value every penny as well.”

The push also includes a digital component. By going to, consumers can look up CiCi’s restaurant locations and create an avatar of themselves standing on a pedestal similar to the one shown in the TV spots.

This is not the first time CiCi’s has reached out to penny pinchers. In November, the chain rolled out a radio and television campaign, employing aliens and a game show to promote its “five bucks and change” value menu.

Koenigsberg said the new campaign strives to change consumers’ perception of pennies. “We would like to have people never look at pennies the same way again,” he said. “When they walk by a penny, they’re going to pick it up and go to CiCi’s. Cheap is the new smart. Conspicuous consumption is not the vogue.”

CiCi’s spent $24 million on advertising in 2008, excluding online, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.