Papa John’s and Publicis Groupe’s Fallon Part Ways After One Month

Agency says it was unaware of Laundry Service 'incident'

Fallon was retained by Papa John's in June and has confirmed it since has resigned the account.

The month after the strategy call in which Papa John’s founder John Schnatter used the N-word and made other racially insensitive remarks, the pizza chain hired Publicis Groupe’s Fallon to handle brand campaigns.

The agency and client have now split after one month, spokespeople confirmed.

“In mid-June, Fallon was retained by Papa John’s International to create work for the brand,” a Fallon spokesperson wrote. “The agency was unaware of the incident with its previous agency and learned about it with the rest of the world. During our short time with Papa John’s, Fallon produced limited product-focused advertising that has yet to air. The agency has decided not to pursue additional business with Papa John’s.”

“Fallon has a talented team and we wish them the best,” said a Papa John’s spokesperson.

The brand declined to comment further.

Schnatter’s image was cut from all Papa John’s ads late last year after he suggested on an earnings call that Papa John’s suffered sluggish sales because of the national anthem protests in the NFL. When Forbes broke the news of the May call last week, it also reported that the brand founder had hired a separate agency aside from Laundry Service to work him back into ads that would then air in key markets.

The Fallon spokesperson, however, stated that the ads it produced did not feature Schnatter.

Last Monday, Adweek broke the news that Laundry Service had parted ways with CEO Jason Stein and approximately 60 employees due to “client attrition.” The Forbes report went live the next morning.

Schnatter subsequently resigned from Papa John’s board of directors but has been very vocal since.

On Friday, Schnatter claimed in interviews with local TV and radio stations near the company’s headquarters in Louisville, Ky., that unnamed Laundry Service employees had “pressured” him into the conversation and attempted to “extort” his company for $6 million before leaking news of the call to Forbes.

In an all-staff memo obtained by Adweek yesterday, an unnamed Laundry Service executive called Schnatter’s recent claims “completely false.” The agency, which is reportedly working on a public relations strategy to deal with the fallout, urged employees not to talk to the press in the meantime.

Laundry Service declined to comment for this story.

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.
@kitten_mouse Lindsay Rittenhouse is a staff writer at Adweek, where she specializes in covering the world of agencies and their clients.