Little Caesars exec's goal: Do more with less

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Little caesar Enterprises will be keeping closer tabs on its marketing spending with new VP-Strategic Marketing Ken Murray.

The privately held pizza chain created the post and brought Mr. Murray on board in April to track the productivity of ad spending.

That won't mean abandoning the award-winning ad creative of Cliff Freeman & Partners, for which the Little Caesars chain has become known. While Mr. Murray tweaks the chain's media and builds local marketing programs, he said he's unlikely to change the tone or style of the advertising.


"We're going to come up with stuff that is off-the-charts creative but be sure it adds to the bottom line," he said, noting Little Caesars intends to hammer home its image as the place for "value and fun."

With an increasingly noisy fast-food battle brewing--the top three advertisers on network TV last week were Burger King Corp., McDonald's Corp. and Wendy's International, according to Nielsen Media Research--smaller players like Little Caesars need to be sure their messages are getting heard.

Mr. Murray's new job marks his entree into the fast-food fray. He previously was senior VP-sales and marketing at package-food marketer Stokely USA. Before that, he spent eight years in brand management at S.C. Johnson & Son. He arrived at Little Caesars just as VP-Marketing Rob Elliott left to become director-client services and creative at Bozell, Southfield, Mich. That post has not yet been filled. Mr. Murray, 39, reports to Phil Roos, senior VP-marketing.

"I'll be developing a lot of programs that get good bang for our buck," Mr. Murray said. And he'll be working with a shrinking budget: Little Caesars' measured media spending has dropped 22.8% since 1994 to $51.9 million in '96, says Competitive Media Reporting.

The No. 3 pizza chain's '96 sales were flat at $1.8 billion, while its share of the $21 billion pizza market slipped to 8.5%, from 8.8% in '95, according to restaurant consultancy Technomic.


Little Caesars last year spent $32.7 million on network TV and $10.3 million on cable. That gap may narrow as Mr. Murray opens the chain's eyes to different media.

"It used to be the Big 3 networks" were the best way to reach consumers, he said. "But now you have cable and other electronic media . . . when you have so many choices on how to build the brand, you want to be sure you choose the ones that are most productive."

In Mr. Murray's opinion, one of the chain's most powerful channels is its stores. As fast-growing rival Papa John's International rolls into dozens of new markets, Little Caesars is scrambling to strengthen its message at the point of purchase, Mr. Murray said.

Little Caesars creates POP materials and local print ads in-house. The chain has had talks recently with promotion shops about upcoming programs, Mr. Murray said.

New York-based Cliff Freeman handles the chain's national creative and media planning. Zenith Media Services handles media buying.

"What's needed now [from Little Caesars] is some form of new products that really work," said Technomic President Ron Paul. "But it's got to be communicated heavily."

Copyright May 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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