Pizza Hut Review Down to Martin and Gotham

Interpublic Shops Compete for $200 Million Account

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The creative review for Pizza Hut's $200 million account is down to a shootout between two Interpublic Group shops, Richmond, Va.-based Martin Agency and Gotham, New York, according to executives familiar with the matter.

The latest development comes in the wake of a series of meetings that Pizza Hut executives -- including the company's president-chief concept officer, Scott Bergren -- held last Thursday and Friday with finalist agencies. It guarantees that an Interpublic shop will emerge the successor on the restaurant chain's account after a 22-year run at Omnicom Group's BBDO.

Pizza Hut placed its account into review in October, saying it was looking for an agency that will bring the chain "innovative, consumer-insight-led advertising." Incumbent BBDO initially intended to defend the account, but bowed out early in the process. That left five agencies vying for Pizza Hut's account, which the client had said would all advance to a final pitch in December.

But the contenders have whittled down quickly. MDC Partners' Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners exited earlier this month, while Omnicom Group's Merkley & Partners and Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi are the latest shops out of contention.

All three agencies have recent experience with fast-food clients. Both Saatchi and Kirshenbaum handled advertising for Wendy's within the past two years, while Merkley is the current agency of record for Arby's.

In an e-mail, Merkley CMO Rob Moorman said the agency is focusing on "other new-business opportunities and our current food and non-food clients." He added that Pizza Hut is planning to embark on "a new direction" that would have resulted in "more overlap between Pizza Hut and some of our existing food clients than was appropriate."

Saatchi referred calls to Pizza Hut, which did not immediately respond.

The search is being led by the chain's chief marketer, Brian Niccol, along with consultant Lee Ann Morgan & Partners. A decision is expected in December, executives said.

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