Donatos win puts shop into McDonald's sphere

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Donatos Pizza dished out its $15 million creative and media account to Martin/Williams, Minneapolis, following a three-month review led by consultant Rojek Marketing Group, Cleveland.

The McDonald's Corp.-owned chain known for its crustless pies is the third and perhaps the most plum account win for the shop in as many months, following the $20 million to $30 million combined Steelcase and L.L. Bean business. Donatos' creative had been handled by Haunty Agency, Worthington, Ohio, for more than a decade; media planning and buying was at SBC Advertising in Westerville since 1995.

Martin/Williams edged out McDonald's mega-agencies Leo Burnett USA and DDB Worldwide, both Chicago, and the Richards Group, Dallas, to grab a subtle connection to the Golden Arches. The proximity to McDonald's made Donatos an attractive assignment that initially drew nearly 50 agencies to the pizza chain's request for proposals.

CHAIN EXPECTED TO GROW

Also fueling their interest was the anticipated growth for the 151-unit pizza chain now in six states. Donatos will add 15 units this year and plans to add another 100 units per year beginning in 2001. The goal is 1,200 units by 2004.

Tom Krouse, senior VP-marketing for Donatos, wouldn't confirm any growth figures beyond this year, saying that "numbers change." He was confident, though, the chain will "be a strong national brand within the next five years."

Mr. Krouse was impressed with the finalist presentations and called the decision "difficult." Ultimately the agency's restaurant and retail branding acumen and similar culture were the key factors in its selection.

"Everyone in the agency has a clear guiding philosophy: Speak with sincerity and create with passion," said Mr. Krouse.

He added that the strategy would try to help Donatos rise above the commodity pizza category. "Everybody loves pizza," he said, adding that the chain's mission is to provide better quality and service.

While targeting families, the marketer will buy broad-based national cable and syndicated media, but it will also focus on targeted media in neighborhoods where stores operate. Local efforts will include outdoor, direct mail and interactive to build its relationship with consumers.

SOCIAL ASPECTS OF PIZZA

While he wouldn't disclose the tagline or positioning for the campaign to break early next year, Martin/Williams President Steve Collins said the essence of the campaign will be based on people's love of pizza and its social aspects that are missing from competitors' advertising. New ads will be about "creating great pizza experiences" brought to life in relevant way.

Donatos is the agency's first restaurant client since parting ways with Shoney's in the early 1990s. Martin/Williams currently has Bruegger's Bagel Bakeries chain on its roster; it's also worked with such casual dining chains as Baker's Square, Bonanza and Skippers.

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