Cici's Pizza Parts Ways With Deutsch

Split Prompts Review of Restaurant Chain's Account

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CiCi's Pizza Buffet
CiCi's Pizza Buffet

Cici's Pizza and Interpublic Group of Cos.' Deutsch have parted ways, and the account is now in review, according to people familiar with the matter.

Cici's confirmed the split but declined to provide detail beyond a brief statement to Ad Age by CMO Nancy Hampton: "We have enjoyed a strong partnership with Deutsch and are thankful for their creativity and leadership over the past seven years. Both teams agreed that this is a positive step for Cici's as we continue to grow the brand."

Deustch, Los Angeles CEO Mike Sheldon told Ad Age : "I wish them the best of luck. This is a mutual decision between parties who have a lot of respect for each other." He added that the split will not lead to layoffs.

At press time it was unknown whether a consultant was conducting the review, or what agencies were participating. Deutsch's Los Angeles office has handled marketing duties for the chain since 2004.

The move comes about nine months after Ms. Hampton joined Cici's as CMO. She had previously worked in various marketing and brand-strategy functions on brands such as Chili's, Corner Bakery Cafe and Romano's Macaroni Grill.

Cici's took in about $545 million in sales last year, down 4.9%, according to Technomic. It is the sixth-largest pizza chain in the U.S. -- behind Pizza Hut, Domino's, Papa John's, Little Caesar's and Papa Murphy's -- and has a 1.8% market share. The U.S. pizza category, according to Technomic, was up about 3.2% overall in 2010.

The Coppell, Texas-based pizza chain, which was acquired by private-equity firm Oncap in June 2007, has about 650 locations in 35 states. It announced in September that it would expand its U.S. presence by 500 stores in the next five to six years.

In 2010, Cici's spent about $22 .6 million on measured media, according to Kantar, roughly the same amount allocated for 2009.

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