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Papa John's Starts Creative Review

By Published on .

Papa John's - Mile High
Papa John's - Mile High Credit: Papa John's
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Better Ingredients. Better Pizza. Better Marketing.

While that last part is not likely to be added to Papa John's slogan, the pizza chain is ready for a new creative approach. Chief Marketing Officer Brandon Rhoten confirmed that he recently sent a note to about 10 agencies and holding companies seeking a new creative partner.

The note kicked off a non-traditional request-for-proposals process that Papa John's is handling on its own. Its goal is to wrap up the review and have an agency partner in place by end of 2017.

Grey, its current creative agency, is participating, and so is Grey's parent company WPP. Others on the list include other holding companies and some smaller agencies that have capabilities beyond creative, he said, declining to identify them.

"By end of '17 we'll have a new partner in place or Grey will be reestablished under the new expectations," Rhoten says.

Rhoten expects to see pitches that could be broader holding company solutions and those from creative shops with experience beyond traditional media.

Rhoten says he wants Papa John's, the nation's 4th-largest pizza chain, to stand out in what has become a commoditized pizza category. Plus, as Papa John's puts more emphasis on digital ordering and social media, it wants a creative team that can enhance the company's effectiveness in those areas.

-The review is only for creative, though Papa John's suggested it would like to find an agency or holding company with capabilities beyond creative. Rhoten said Papa John's is looking for a creative agency that can handle every medium, not "a TV agency." While he is not actively looking for a new media or PR agency right now, Rhoten wants to make sure whichever creative partner steps in has capabilities "above and beyond just traditional creative."

Rhoten joined Papa John's in May from Wendy's. Rhoten joined Wendy's in 2011 as director of digital marketing and social media, and says he was the first person at the burger chain with digital in his title. He was VP of advertising, media and digital/social at Wendy's when he left earlier this year. There he hired VML as the burger chain's digital agency. VML later became Wendy's main creative agency.

For media, Papa John's works with Initiative, an agency Rhoten has done some work with in the past. Edelman is the chain's current PR shop. Before Grey won the creative account in 2014, it had been handled by ZGroup, a unit of Zimmerman.

Papa John's is currently running a Grey campaign tying the dedication around preparing for football games to the passion that goes into making Papa John's pizza. The tie-in underscores the chain's relationship with football. It's the official pizza sponsor of the NFL and, of course, plenty of people order pizza when they're watching games.

A new spot has a voiceover by TV personality Mike Rowe as Denver Broncos Turf Manager Chris Hathaway works on the grass in the stadium and then shares some pizza with retired quarterback Peyton Manning and Papa John's Founder and Chairman-CEO John Schnatter.

Along with Manning, who owns some Papa John's locations, the chain has a spokesman relationship with Houston Texans' star J.J. Watt.

Manning and Watt appear in a video the chain posted Sunday that's sort of a teaser to what it's calling the Makers campaign.

Papa John's total U.S. ad spending rose 4.3% to $235 million, according to the Ad Age Datacenter.--