Skip navigation

Year in Review: Top 5 ad campaigns

Take a look at the commercials that made an impact this year, from pizza slinger Papa John's to family-dining chain Denny's.

Papa John’s owns the premium price point. Pizza players found that 2011 marked another year of aggressive, constant advertising, with the three biggest chains competing chiefly on price. Pizza Hut reprised its popular $10 any-size-pizza deal, while Domino’s Pizza’s commercials undercut that price point to the tune of two medium, two-topping pizzas for $5.99 each. But Papa John’s commercials promoting its specialty pies — like the Double Layered Premium Pepperoni — offered at the premium price of $11 helped the chain reinforce its high-quality positioning and drive a 6.1-percent gain in third-quarter same-store sales. “Our goal is to always get the right price point for our quality product that we believe we deserve,” chief marketing officer Andrew Varga said.

Watch Papa John's commercial for its Double Layered Premium Pepperoni; story continues below

The King is dethroned. In the wake of a long sales slump and a going-private buyout from 3G Capital, Burger King parted ways with ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky and polarizing mascot The King. The first commercials to follow from new agency mcgarrybowen broke in August and promoted the California Whopper. Burger King’s advertising has taken a quality-focused tack ever since, to promote its rapidly expanding menu, and officials are bullish on early results of the new burgers and new commercials.

Watch Burger King's commercial for its California Whopper; story continues on next page

Continued from page 1

The prodigal daughter returns. Wendy’s also had a new burger to promote, Dave’s Hot ‘N Juicy Cheeseburger. But unlike Burger King, the nation’s third-largest hamburger chain returned to its roots, putting founder Dave Thomas’ daughter, Wendy, on camera and reviving its popular slogan from the ’80s, “Where’s the beef?” The commercials for Dave’s Hot ‘N Juicy, combined with the introduction of the mid-priced W burger and news of new prototypes, gave Wendy’s two quarters of small same-store sales increases heading into 2012, which prompted at least one securities analyst to speculate that the brand could leapfrog Burger King in market share.

Watch Wendy's commercial with Wendy Thomas; story continues below

Denny’s ‘open’ to new methods. Denny’s made a big push for young, Web-savvy customers who form the backbone of the brand’s late-night business. The family-dining chain debuted a series on of short, comedic “webisodes” called “Always Open,” a play on its new tagline, “America’s diner is always open.” Comedian David Koechner filmed each video from a booth at Denny’s, interviewing other personalities like Jason Bateman and Will Arnett, addressing topics ranging from primal-scream therapy to magic elves. Denny’s food was ever-present in what amounted to nearly four minutes of product placement per video.

Watch Denny's webisode with David Koechner and Will Arnett; story continues below

Culver’s gets more ‘welcoming.’ Like Wendy’s long ago and Domino’s much more recently, quick-service chain Culver’s lured its chain leader out of the corner office and placed him in front of the camera for a new campaign, “Welcome to Delicious,” that debuted March 17. The chain’s chief executive, Craig Culver, who founded Prairie du Sac, Wis.-based Culver’s with his father in 1984, starred in several commercials, traveling to farms around Wisconsin where the brand’s beef and cheese are sourced and discussing the shared commitment to freshness between Culver’s and the farmers. Brand officials said same-store sales began rising consistently every week in which the commercials ran.

Watch Culver's "Welcome to Delicious" commercial


Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN


Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.