Pizza Hut brings back its Edge: $25 mil supports new version

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Pizza Hut once again is going out on the Edge.

The Tricon Global Restaurants unit breaks a $25 million ad campaign May 4 with a trio of new spots promoting its improved Edge pie. The effort, from BBDO Worldwide, New York, expands on the original "Proselytizer" campaign.

One ad is product-focused, emphasizing "cheese pulls." Another stars a postal worker who exclaims he's been to the edge and back.

The idea behind the campaign is to capture the spirit and energy of the 18-year-old in all of us, as well as the universal appeal of pizza, said Randy Gier, chief marketing officer at Pizza Hut. The spots continue the chain's "Best pizzas under one roof" tagline.

The campaign introduces an edgier Edge, the rimless pizza originally introduced in 1997. Although the popular limited-time offer sold well, Mr. Gier said customers complained about product quality. The new version has a sturdier, still-thin crust and more cheese that stays hotter longer. It also features a blend of flavorings, including basil, garlic, oregano, rosemary and thyme, with a sweet sauce.

If customers like the improved Edge, it could earn a place on the permanent menu, said Mr. Gier.


With the new Edge, Pizza Hut is trying to build on the momentum it gained with its $80 million Big New Yorker pizza launch last year. Driven by sales of that new product, the No. 1 pizza chain reported a 6% increase in same-store sales for the quarter ended Dec. 25, its 10th consecutive quarter of growth. The chain's 1999 total sales were up 4.4% to $5 billion, although it trimmed units by 4% to 8,084 stores, according to Technomic. Average store volume rose 8% to $696,000.

Those positive results weren't enough to eclipse the rapid growth at No. 4 pizzamaker Papa John's International. Despite losing a lawsuit (now under appeal) with Pizza Hut over its comparative ads that claim "Better ingredients, better pizza," the upstart added 20% more units, to 2,254, and sales jumped 23% to $1.4 billion. Average store volume, at $754,000, also beats Pizza Hut, in part, because of its perceived better quality, said Bob Goldin, exec VP at Technomic.

Pizza Hut was "promotion and new-product driven," he said. "They were good at getting trial with good new products, but they didn't sustain well."

But Mr. Gier said the company has put significant emphasis on product improvement.

"In the past, what we did was marketing as Band-Aids," he said, adding, "We did a lot of promotion like all other quick-service restaurants." But that's changed. "There's a philosophical change about how we go to market. We are more about the pizza now."


Facing franchisee discontent, the company shifted its focus from delivery and takeout in late 1998. It invested in new equipment, training and offered larger topping portions. "People are getting more ingredients for the money," said Mr. Gier. Last year, the company launched a new look and logo and this year continues work to rebuild and reface older units.

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