Little Caesars confirmed it is offering delivery service at select stores in nine urban markets, including Detroit, Boston and Houston. Simultaneously, Domino's VP-Marketing Tony Lavely left the company last week after less than a year of service.
Reached at home, Mr. Lavely said he and company owner Thomas Monaghan disagreed on everything from "business strategy to management style."
The two unrelated moves are certain to blur the battle lines of the pizza wars. Domino's for the past year has struggled to define itself after abandoning its signature 30-minute guarantee in advertising.
Intense consumer research has led Little Caesars to stretch beyond its traditional value positioning, adding higher quality pizzas and, now, delivery. The privately held company is using spot TV and newspaper ads to promote delivery and is readying a substantial integrated marketing onslaught.
Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York, has the marketer's $75 million account.
A Little Caesars spokesman wouldn't comment on marketing plans, saying he did not know how quickly the company will expand delivery service.
A Domino's spokesman said: "We're paying close attention because we're not going to let Little Caesars do to us what Pizza Hut did back in the '80s," when Pizza Hut began deliveries. "It puts the pressure on us ... it may include our continued commitment to the 30-minute delivery service."
Domino's may have one advantage: In most corporate and franchised Little Caesars units testing delivery, the service costs roughly $2. Domino's delivers free of charge.
Little Caesars over the past two years has chipped away at Domino's market share; the two now run neck and neck with 1994 sales topping $2 billion each. With Little Caesars now hacking at its delivery platform, Domino's must move quickly to refocus its marketing.
Finding a marketing chief who works well with the reportedly moody Mr. Monaghan hasn't been easy; the next one will be the fourth since 1992.
Mr. Lavely's departure leaves Grey Advertising, creator of the current "Gotta Be Domino's" campaign, on shaky ground.