CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Pizza Hut VP-Marketing Communications Bob Kraut has left to pursue other opportunities, according to an executive familiar with the matter. In an e-mail, spokesman Chris Fuller declined to comment further, saying, "It's not our business practice to discuss HR issues publicly."
Pizza Hut has suffered during the recession, with sales down a staggering 13% for the most recent quarter. While the brand has focused on menu innovations such as wings and pasta (the latter of which has already grown into a $1 billion business), experts have pointed to possible problems with pricing, as well as its namesake pies. Chief Marketing Officer Brian Niccol is still with the company.
In response to slipping sales, Pizza Hut instituted an agency review this fall, bidding adieu to longtime partner BBDO, New York. The chain has since whittled the list of finalists to two Interpublic Group of cos.' shops, Richmond, Va.-based Martin Agency, and Gotham, New York. A decision is expected soon.
Mr. Kraut joined Pizza Hut in 2006. During his tenure, he championed digital and social-media applications, including a Facebook ordering platform and an improved website, where Pizza Hut expects to pass $1 billion in sales by 2012. In the last year, Pizza Hut has also experimented with viral video, built a Twitter following (by way of a "Twintern," who is now a permanent employee) and launched an iPhone application that has passed $1 million in sales and 1 million downloads. The app is also featured in Apple advertising.
Prior to Pizza Hut, Mr. Kraut was director-brand and advertising operations at General Motors. There, among other projects, he worked on then-cutting-edge integration deals with properties such as the first Transformers movie.