"BBDO is on the hot seat," said one agency executive with knowledge of the fast-food arena.
The review comes as Tricon Global Restaurants' Pizza Hut struggles with slumping sales. Omnicom Group's BBDO, the 15-year incumbent, appears to have been caught by surprise. Asked late Dec. 7 about a review that Ad Age had heard was under way, a BBDO spokesman said the question was "out of left field." A Pizza Hut spokeswoman late that day said she was not aware of a review.
On Dec. 13, the chain confirmed the review. The spokeswoman said Pizza Hut wants to inject some "energy" into the brand, and had contacted "a handful" of shops about project work. She insisted BBDO would remain lead agency on the account. A decision is expected early in the new year.
The prospect of adding to the roster a creative standout such as Nike shop Wieden, Portland, Ore., or Cannes Grand Prix winner Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York, is a threat to BBDO, itself a creative force. Cliff Freeman & Partners Chairman-Chief Creative Officer Cliff Freeman declined to comment, as did Wieden. A BBDO spokesman referred calls to its client.
Pizza Hut President-Chief Concept Officer Mike Rawlings told analysts last week that "the second half hasn't been as positive as we would like." Both No. 1 Pizza Hut and No. 3 chain Papa John's reported flat third-quarter sales for stores open at least a year, and declines in October and November; No. 2 Domino's Pizza had a 4% third-quarter increase.
It's not unprecedented for Tricon chains to have a secondary shop. Creative Alliance, Louisville, Ky., is KFC's No. 2 shop behind BBDO. Pizza Hut, in fact, used Omnicom's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, as a second agency for several years in the mid-`90s.
Contributing: Alice Z. Cuneo and Rich Thomaselli