LOS ANGELES The first batch of commercials from Pizza Hut’s new agency delivered the goods in the first quarter of 2010, according to marketing analytics firm Ace Metrix, which recently released its top 10 restaurant commercials for the first quarter.
Pizza Hut had one commercial rank in the top 10 TV spots across all industries in the first quarter, based on Ace Metrix’s proprietary Ace Score measurement. That spot placed first for restaurant industry Ace Scores, while another tied for fourth place.
Ace Metrix compiles Ace Scores from thousands of consumers surveyed on commercials’ persuasiveness and “watchability,” and Pizza Hut’s commercial for its $10 any-size pizza deal led the way in the restaurant category with the top score of 644 out of a possible 950. That spot, which debuted in late January and played during the pregame show of the Super Bowl, also placed ninth in first-quarter Ace Score for commercials in all industries, ranking behind the likes of Samsung, Apple and Nintendo.
Ace Metrix top 10 restaurant commercials in the first quarter
- Pizza Hut: $10 Deal - You Don't Have To Settle (Ace Score 644)
- Chili's: Lunch Is All About Seconds (Ace Score 631)
- Outback Steakhouse: Help Us Say Thanks (Ace Score 631)
- Applebee's: Men Discuss Under 550 Calories Menu (Ace Score 628)
- Pizza Hut: $10 Deal - Broke College Student (Ace Score 628)
- Domino's Pizza: Chefs Surprise Critics With New Pizza (Ace Score 626)
- Chili's: Smoked Four Hours Before (Ace Score 613)
- CiCi's Pizza: 25th Anniversary Special (Ace Score 607)
- Buffalo Wild Wings Grill: Freak Storm Keeps Men In Restaurant (Ace Score 604)
- Outback Steakhouse: Sirloin And Lobster Tail $14 Is Back (Ace Score 604)
Commercials from casual-dining chains represented more than half of the list. By comparison, Ace Metrix's top ads for 2009 were dominated by quick-service concepts. (Related story: Taco Bell takes top TV ad in 2009) 
“As the economy improves, consumers’ receptivity to more higher-end casual dining, as opposed to just burgers and other quick-service restaurants, has improved," said JuYoung Lee, co-founder and chief scientist for Ace Metrix. "That’s why we’re seeing better scores from Outback, Applebee’s and Chili’s.”
That’s not to say the value proposition in commercials from Pizza Hut, Domino’s and CiCi’s goes unnoticed, she added.
“Value still goes a long way, probably forever,” Lee said. “It’s not just price alone, it’s the new concept of price-plus. ... Consumers have a more holistic view of value, and when advertisers speak to that, consumers respond better. It’s not all about the cheapest price you can offer, but it also has to come with flavor, or it has to help me lose weight or save time, and so on and so forth.”
Pizza Hut’s new commercials were developed by The Martin Agency, a Richmond, Va.-based shop owned by the Interpublic Group of Companies. Martin won the account last December. Its ads for the $10 any-size pizza deal feature actors resembling regular Americans saving money with the offer, a departure from Pizza Hut’s old ads by BBDO New York, which leveraged celebrities like Jessica Simpson, Donald Trump and Miss Piggy from “The Muppets.”
Rival Domino’s Pizza had the No. 6 Ace Score of 626, for its commercial promoting two medium two-topping pizzas for $5.99 each, in which Domino’s employees surprise harsh critics from an earlier focus group with the chain’s newly reformulated pizza.
Another pizza player, CiCi’s, placed eighth with an Ace Score of 607 for its 25th anniversary special advertisement, coming in just behind Chili’s, whose ad for Baby Back Ribs scored 613.
Lee noted all the Ace Scores in the restaurant category’s top 10 are significantly higher than the category average of 540.