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Breaking down Little Caesars' new television ad campaign

NRN speaks with ad agency source to analyze the pizza chain’s first national campaign in 15 years

Little Caesars’ national TV campaign resurrecting its cartoon spokesman and “Pizza! Pizza!” tagline could break through the pizza sector’s marketing battlefield, said an advertising executive watching the segment.

Detroit-based Little Caesars launched two new commercials this week that promote the Hot-N-Ready pizzas priced at $5 or the 3 Meat Treat pizzas for $8, and end with the tagline “Pizza! Pizza!” New York-based agency BFG 9000, which won Little Caesars’ account in May, developed the new commercials.

In one of the new commercials, two teenagers bring home a Hot-N-Ready pizza to their grandfather, who, in disbelief, tells them to paint him blue and call him “Babe” — then actually produces the can of paint. The other commercial shows a man gloating next to a pond with the giant fish he has caught, only to find a Little Caesars customer just as enthusiastic about the $5 large pizza he attained.

“Humor should break through in this pizza category right now,” Tim Nelson, president of Chicago-based advertising agency Tris3ct, said in an interview with Nation’s Restaurant News. “If Little Caesars wants to drive trial and reconsideration among what I would think is a lot of lapsed users, this is a good way to go. … The market has been trained to respond to value offers when they know the offers are out there. A pepperoni pizza for $5 speaks to a very large part of the market.”

Nelson, who oversaw the McDonald’s account for Arc Worldwide years ago, also noted that the pizza segment remains one of the industry’s most competitive sectors, especially in terms of television advertising. Little Caesars’ campaign may be differentiated enough to break through, he said, because of the different tack it takes compared with the big three pizza chains: Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Papa John’s.

Little Caesars’ spots are built around humor and value, Nelson said, meaning they will not go head to head with Domino’s and Papa John’s commercials about quality starring their executives, or with Pizza Hut’s campaigns around limited-time offers.

The focus on the $5 Hot-N-Ready highlights Little Caesars’ aggressive value proposition, which it has used to quickly rebuild its once-struggling franchise operation. According to the latest NRN Top 100 industry census, Little Caesars posted U.S. systemwide sales growth of 12.36 percent to $1.43 billion, as unit growth rose 7 percent to 3,455 locations, for fiscal 2011.

Little Caesars first used the “Pizza! Pizza!” tag in 1979, and former advertising agency Cliff Freeman & Partners developed popular advertisements around the phrase and the Little Caesar cartoon character in the late 1980s.

Nelson noted that, although consumers could possibly confuse the current offer for the “Pizza! Pizza!” tagline’s old two-pizza offer, the decision to repurpose the expression in this new campaign should leverage Little Caesars’ heritage and ultimately work.

“The tagline definitely has value, and if Little Caesars brings it into today’s environment, there are plenty of young adults who just see it as the call to action that it is,” Nelson said. “It won’t be hard for them to redefine. These are clearly single-pizza offers.”

Little Caesars may have missed the mark on one brand attribute, he said — convenience. In his estimation, the chain missed the opportunity to point out Little Caesars’ biggest competitive advantage of carryout over delivery.

“The spots don’t really elevate the occasion of grabbing and going, compared with getting a pizza delivered, but I expect that other spots would go that route in the future,” said Nelson. “The idea that you could just drive to a Little Caesars and pick the pizza up [with no waiting] is a completely different proposition. In the spots right now, it’s not quite clear why Little Caesars is the right choice other than its price.”

Little Caesars did not respond to requests for comment to this story.

This story has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: Jan. 6, 2014
  A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that commercials which began airing in June 2012 were the first national TV spots for Little Caesars after a hiatus of about 15 years. Those commercials were the first in a campaign created by the chain’s agency of record, BFG 9000, but Little Caesars had gone on air nationally in January 2012 with a few individual commercials created by other agencies.

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

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