Pizza Hut Has Tall Order for BBDO

By Cristina Merrill and Karen Benezra

NEW YORK–Pizza Hut and BBDO here are preparing to launch new menu offerings supported by a new ad campaign that, depending on its success, could shape the future of the agency-client relationship, according to sources.

The new offerings, internally dubbed ‘Lightning Bolts,’ have already been tested in three markets: Fort Wayne, Ind.; Green Bay, Wis.; and Las Vegas, sources said. The products have an array of fresher, higher quality ingredients and lower-fat, meatier pepperoni.

Five or six new spots will emphasize the theme of ‘freshness’ tied to the revamped pizza products, to be introduced at a franchisee gathering in San Diego next week. The ads, described by one source as ‘product as hero,’ are expected to roll out nationally starting the following week, April 28, sources said.

Last week, BBDO was in Los Angeles shooting the new campaign. At present, the plan is to continue using the current tagline, ‘Makin’ it great. Again and again,’ although one source said that could change at a later date.

According to sources, Pizza Hut president and chief executive officer David Novak has been pressuring the agency to come up with work that will turnaround slumping sales. Same-store sales were down 4 percent in 1996, and franchisees have complained that recent ads from BBDO–the ’employee memo’ campaign that was unveiled in January–has not helped, sources said.

Some sources said that this new round of commercials will be BBDO’s chance to prove itself and firm up its hold on the $180 million account and its 10-year relationship with the client.

Pizza Hut is the leader in its category, with a 24 percent share, followed by Domino’s at 11 percent and Little Caesars at 10 percent. Executives at BBDO and Pizza Hut declined comment.

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