Little Caesars Revives Famed 'Pizza! Pizza!' Ads

After 15-Year National Absence, No. 4 Pizza Chain Reinstates Tag, Character to Restore Fun in Category

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Get ready for a lot more "Pizza! Pizza!"

Little Caesars is launching its first national campaign in 15 years, once again putting its iconic "Pizza! Pizza!" tagline and Little Caesar character front and center.

Ed Gleich, senior VP-global marketing, who joined Little Caesars in October, said the chain is using national media to "amplify" the "Pizza! Pizza!" tagline. "We're in every state, and it was time to tie media together," he said, adding that it was a matter of "being efficient and getting more for our investment." Local buys had been used when there was no national campaign.

The Little Caesar is back.
The Little Caesar is back.

The campaign, launching this week and created by BFG 9000, will include TV, radio and digital, as well as local print. Horizon Media handles media services. "It seems like everyone got really serious about pizza all of a sudden, talking about artisanal pizzas and apologizing for the way their pizza was made," said Gerry Graf, founder and chief creative officer at BFG 9000. "But if you take a step back and look at pizza, it's fun."

In one TV spot, two teenagers approach their grandfather and say, "Hey, Grandpa, we got this large pizza for five bucks," to which the man responds, "Well, paint me blue and call me Babe."

"Pizza! Pizza!" was introduced in 1979 to promote the chain's "two great pizzas, one low price" offer, and was popularized about 10 years later by Cliff Freeman & Partners, the chain's agency until 1998.

"Pizza! Pizza!" is no longer being used to promote a two-pizza offer, but most Americans know the tagline, "so you wouldn't just throw that out and present Little Caesars in a new way," said Mr. Graf.

The main promotion nowadays is its $5 large pepperoni Hot-N-Ready pizza, as well as its $8 large three-meat pizza.

Mr. Gleich said the Little Caesar character and tagline have "extremely strong positive brand perceptions. ... [It] may have started out [as a] pizza promotion, but it's evolved to stand for Little Caesars."

The chain had the benefit of a low price point throughout the recession, and so was less affected by hard times than rival chains, said Darren Tristano, exec VP at Technomic. "They've been able to grow the brand with a price point [that was] an affordable option for most Americans. ... They really stand for value more than any other brand." A recent Sandelman & Associates survey rated Little Caesars the best value for the money.

Its growth came after a tumultuous "90s and early 2000s. In 1996 Little Caesars had an estimated 4,800 locations in the U.S., according to Technomic. Its highest estimated U.S. sales were nearly $2 billion in 1992. But as chains like now-No. 3 chain Papa John's went public and began expanding, competition in the pizza space became fierce. As Pizza Hut, Domino's, Papa John's and No. 4 Little Caesars duked it out, discounting became prevalent.

The chain, privately owned by Ilitch Holdings, was also at odds with franchisees, who filed a lawsuit in 1999 claiming that mandatory contributions to national ad campaigns didn't benefit them and that they were forced to use a company-owned supplier whose quality had decreased. A settlement was reached in 2001.

By 2002, Little Caesars had an estimated 1,343 units; the next year it eked out $650 million in U.S. sales. Measured-media spending followed suit. In 1997, the chain spent $36 .8 million in the U.S., according to Kantar Media. By 2001, the chain had slashed that to less than $3 million.

But it has built back up to 3,500 units in 2011, as estimated by Technomic, with nearly $1.5 billion in systemwide U.S. sales, and media spending increased to $22 .4 million. Little Caesars was the third-fastest-growing chain in the U.S. in the three years ended fall 2011, adding 826 units in that time, according to NPD Group.

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