A FOOD FIGHT OUT OF CONTROL

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Free enterprise isn't always well-mannered. So why should advertising be above the fray when competitive elbows start flying? Yet there's a line that should not be crossed. On the wrong side of that line is advertising that loses sight of its selling mission in its eagerness to score points at the rival's expense. Pizza Hut has arrived at that point in its ad war with rival Papa John's.

Pizza Hut, the nation's No. 1 pizza chain, is airing in a few metro markets a TV spot that lifts, directly from a Papa John's commercial, an image of Papa John's founder-CEO John Schnatter. In his Papa John's spot, Mr. Schnatter declares, "We give the yeast several extra days to work its magic. We never use dough made the same day like some folks." The "folks" at Pizza Hut, in their spot, quote from those words under Mr. Schnatter's lifted visage. What then follows is a picture of a long-distance highway truck rolling through the countryside and the declaration, under a Papa John's logo, that "Papa John's dough is trucked in . . . Papa John's dough [is] up to 6 days old." As we said, business can be rough.

To Papa John's VP-marketing, Pizza Hut's action is "extraordinarily upsetting" and has been turned over to Papa John's attorneys. At Pizza Hut, executives can only smile grimly at that. Their lawyers already filed suit, last year, seeking $12.5 million in damages for Papa John's advertising they charge is deceptive and unfair competition.

And so it goes. We can only imagine what the creative minds at Papa John's marketing department will come up with as an advertising rejoinder now that Pizza Hut has raised the level of nastiness a notch-unless someone rediscovers that advertising must leave behind a positive feeling about the advertiser's brand, not merely fire-bomb the opposition.

Pizza Hut's latest tactic is what we see all too often in political campaign ads. After years of advertising industry dismay about the damage done by negative political commercials, it's embarrassing to ask this question but it can't be avoided. In the heat of the marketplace battle, are there now product advertisers that can't resist the allure of "going negative" either?M

Hit makers

The entertainment business, perhaps more so than other industries, is driven by powerful personalities. It's a world of powerful egos wrestling with either huge successes or abysmal public failure. A smash film or TV show opens doors that would never be opened for traditional marketing heroes with big ideas. In this week's Special Report, we pull back the curtain on stories about winners in movies, TV, book publishing, videogaming, music, Broadway and theme parks.

For WB marketing executives Bob Bibb and Lou Goldstein, it's a quintet of TV shows-"Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Dawson's Creek," "7th Heaven," "Charmed" and "Felicity." Said Mr. Goldstein: "The great thing about these shows is that they are a set." That's just another way of saying they are marketing their WB brand. As a result, marketers are climbing aboard the WB's bandwagon.

The same thinking is spreading throughout the entertainment business, now more conscious than ever of long-term brand-building, cross-promotional opportunities and synergistic tie-ins. The industry's marketing success can only grow as businesses from Broadway to the Gateway Arch and all the way to Sunset learn they're appealing to two sets of customers rather than just one-audiences first,

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