The pizza marketer and the agency cited "philosophical differences" for the split, but declined to elaborate. Grey will not participate in the review, expected to be decided this spring.
J. Walter Thompson USA, Detroit, which won a regional assignment and $30 million in spot TV buying from Domino's last May, is said to be a contender.
FCB DECLINES INVITATION
Executives close to the review said Foote, Cone & Belding was also invited to participate, but declined because of conflicts. Laurel Cutler, global marketing planning director at FCB parent True North Communications, sits on Domino's National Marketing Advisory Board.
Grey won the account in 1991 but has been plagued by rumors of a shaky relationship for several years. Domino's has had four different marketing managers in the last six years, and Grey is said to have grown frustrated with the turnover and conflicting demands of company executives and franchisees.
Domino's marketing is currently overseen by Cheryl Bachelder, VP-marketing and product development.
Despite the long-standing rumors, Don Reichert, a Domino's franchisee in Houston, said he was surprised by the split.
"In 1996 in particular, [Grey] did a good job for us," he said. "At the same time, five years ago had this happened, I would have hit the panic button."
Sales for the pizza marketer increased after Domino's moved to product-focused advertising.
Grey's "Wow hot now" campaign introduced the Roma Herb Crust pizza this spring. In December, the company launched a national effort to promote its new Garlic Crunch Crust pizza.
SALES UP 6.7%
Domino's, the No. 2 contender in the $20 billion take-out/restaurant pizza business, was the only major pizza outlet with strong growth last year. Its same-store sales were up 6.7%; systemwide gross sales grew 8.1% last year to about $2.9 billion.
Other pizza chains are struggling. Little Caesars reported systemwide sales of $1.8 billion in 1995, down 10% from 1994. PepsiCo's Pizza Hut sales are down 5% to $2.6 billion through September.
No. 1 Pizza Hut has a 25% share, Domino's a 10.5% share and Little Caesars has a 10% share of the pizza market, according to restaurant consultancy Technomic.
Contributing: Bill McDowell