Exclusive: New Pizza Hut ads put focus on family

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Pizza Hut wants families to "gather `round" the pizza.

Fronted by a new management team, the Yum Brands chain has plotted a repositioning and told franchisees at a meeting last month it will again turn to families to drive sales. "We're going to change the focus from spike-haired echo boomers to pressure-cooker moms," said one attendee.

The chain is considering the tagline, "Gather `Round the Good Stuff," which implies quality food and togetherness, to break later this month. A Pizza Hut spokeswoman confirmed that the company presented the new strategy and is considering "a number of taglines," but declined to comment further. Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, New York, Pizza Hut's agency of record, referred all queries to Pizza Hut.

budget boost

The strategy shift comes as sales totter for Pizza Hut. Yum CEO David Novak in February ordered an ad overhaul and bigger budget for the chain. Spending on Pizza Hut, which saw same-store sales fall 4% in the quarter ended March 22, will jump to $300 million.

The recent meeting marked the franchisee debut for President-Chief Concept Officer Peter Hearl and Chief Marketing Officer Tom James, who oversaw new products and marketing concepts. While the recent addition of the P'Zone calzone to the permanent menu offers a glimpse at the family-friendly strategy, the bigger splash is expected next year when Pizza Hut launches its Harvest Pizza during the Super Bowl, said executives familiar with the situation. The chain also is experimenting with a "Four4All" pizza, which allows for four different topping combinations on one pie.

Encouraged

Although still early in the process, franchisees are encouraged by the new management team and its plans. That bodes well for BBDO, which handles Pizza Hut and KFC. The Yum account has been viewed as vulnerable at BBDO amid the recent retirement of former Chairman Phil Dusenberry and inconsistent results.

"BBDO is our agency of record. Nothing has changed," said a Pizza Hut spokeswoman.

Moreover, eyebrows were raised when Omnicom sibling Zimmerman Partners Advertising, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., won the $45 million account of rival Papa John's International, although a Pizza Hut spokeswoman denied it was an issue. Pizza Hut has tussled in court with Papa John's and lost a contentious false-advertising lawsuit over Papa John's "Better Ingredients, Better Pizza" tagline.

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