Papa John's may be forced to overhaul its branding and even its "Better ingredients. Better pizza" slogan in light of a court decision last week that found the Louisville, Ky.-based company and rival Pizza Hut both guilty of "false and misleading" advertising.
Following a series of competitive ads by Papa John's last year, Dallas-based Pizza Hut charged its rival with airing commercials that misrepresented its products. Papa John's then countersued.
Last Friday, a Dallas court found both parties in violation of the Lanham Act, which governs acceptable commercial statements. The eight-member jury reconvenes Nov. 29 to consider awarding damages. Pizza Hut is asking for $12.5 million and a ban on Papa John's "Better" slogan.
One insider called the decision "a can of worms" regarding the future use of the word "better" in advertising. Court documents show the defense pointed out during the trial phase that at least 200 companies currently use the contested word in advertising.
The disputed tagline was developed early on by Connecticut business consultant and author Jack Trout, according to a source familiar with the account. Papa John's current agency is Atlanta's Fricks/Firestone.
BBDO Worldwide, New York, is lead agency for Pizza Hut, but did not do the competitive ads which accused Papa John's of making pizza with stale dough. Shrum Devine, Washington, D.C., handled that effort, which aired in the Southeast.
Representatives of Fricks/Firestone did not return calls by press time. --with T.W. Sieber