The nation’s biggest pizza brands have deployed multimillion-dollar ad budgets on deal- and value-focused national commercials, but brand-building touting more than price points also has broken through with consumers in 2011.
According to advertising research firm Ace Metrix, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Papa John’s and CiCi’s Pizza have debuted 46 national commercials so far in 2011, and ads promoting products and prices have racked up some of the highest “Ace Scores.” Pizza Hut had the No. 1 ad for its Stuffed Crust Pizzas, with an Ace Score of 634 out of a possible 950. Domino’s highest-scoring commercial, which promoted its improved chicken items, had an Ace Score of 629, placing it third in the pizza segment’s rankings.
Ace Metrix calculates Ace Scores by surveying consumers about advertisements’ persuasiveness and watchable qualities.
“Pizza Hut and Domino’s just killed it,” said Jack McKee, vice president of sales and marketing for Los Angeles-based Ace Metrix. “Pizza Hut had seven ads in the top 10, six of them calling out low prices, so that was big. I also was surprised that Domino’s highest-scoring ad wasn’t a pizza ad; it was going large with their chicken.”
The commercials throughout Ace Metrix’s rankings scored high in terms of product desirability, “because you always see great product shots — pizza guys are notoriously good at making the food look so yummy,” McKee said. While slick food photography was a given, emotive writing helped several ads stand out, he added.
“Domino’s did a great job bringing that out, first with their ‘mea culpa’ ads last year, which continued with their ‘rate our chicken’ spots this year,” McKee said. “The [commercial advertising the] carryout deal, with the franchisee saying, ‘You’re killing me,’ has a personal touch, and I’ve seen those kinds of commercials do well. Pizza Hut’s ‘That’s my favorite thing’ ad did that as well, versus just talking straight price.”
McKee was surprised to see several other emotive advertisements in the top 10, given that the cut-throat competition in the pizza segment has revolved around price and discounting the past 18 months.
“It’s usually a case of desire versus desire, pizza shot versus pizza shot,” he said. “With such similar ads competing with one another, to break through that clutter, we need something that would stand out. Domino’s pops in because they had strong ‘change’ scores, [which convey] the notion that they’re moving in a new direction.”
View a new commercial for Pizza Hut's Ultimate Stuffed Crust pizza
The data also show that pizza chains don’t need to be the most frequent advertisers to achieve the biggest bang for their marketing dollars, McKee added. Pizza Hut has introduced 20 commercials in 2011 so far, and 13 of those spots landed in the top 20. Domino’s rolled out only six new commercials, but three of them made the top 10.
Papa John’s has run 15 commercials in 2011, but its highest-ranking spot, a 15-second commercial advertising large pizzas for $10, came in at No. 12 with an Ace Score of 607.
CiCi’s Pizza has run five national commercials in 2011, but its highest finish was No. 40 out of 46. Its highest-scoring commercial had an Ace Score of 550 and promoted “A real dinner you can afford.”