Domino’s Pizza is breaking up with CPB after 13 years, hiring independent agency WorkInProgress after determining that working with a holding company shop was not letting it move quickly enough during this chaotic year.
WorkinProgress—the Boulder-based small agency founded in 2016 by a group of CPB vets who had steered some of the pizza maker’s groundbreaking work—officially begins its tenure as Domino’s creative agency in January.
Moving the account to WorkInProgress “is not an indictment” on the creative work being put out by MDC Partners’ CPB, says Domino’s Chief Marketing Officer Art D’Elia. “I’m really proud of the work we’ve done with Crispin.”
But the agency, and its position within a holding company, don’t offer the structure Domino’s wants as it prepares for a rapidly changing, quick-thinking future. “I really feel that the independent agency model gives us more flexibility and less distractions,” says D’Elia.
Losing the Domino’s account is a stinging blow to CPB, and comes as it is defending its Infiniti account, which went into global review in June.
It’s also the latest example that holding companies need to prove their value to marketers, even longtime clients.
Brands had to rapidly rethink their marketing plans when the coronavirus pandemic forced them to pull existing campaigns and quickly execute new approaches, abandoning long-held traditions of extended planning meetings and prolonged shoots.
“What this COVID crisis has taught us is that the pace is going to move even faster than we originally thought,” says D’Elia.
While being “nimble, agile and quick” is not a new idea, the pandemic helped solidify it, says D’Elia. “I guess it’s a little bit cliched to say, but the pace of change is increasing,” he says.
Domino’s contract with CPB was set to expire at the end of 2020, and the events of this year put further extension of the deal in doubt. In July, D’Elia began speaking with WorkInProgress. Now, the deal is formalized and set to begin in January.
“Absolutely, COVID played a role in this,” says D’Elia, noting that in the second quarter of 2020, Domino’s “had to move faster than we ever had to move before.” And he believes brands will need to move even more quickly in the post-pandemic era. “I want to be prepared to operate in that new environment,” he says.
A lot of Domino’s ads set to run in the first half of 2021 will be from CPB, with work from WorkInProgress likely to debut in the spring or summer.
“We’re proud to have won some of the creative industry’s highest awards, but most importantly, we’re proud to have helped completely transform their business,” CPB Global CEO Erik Sollenberg said in a statement, noting milestones such as Domino’s stock price soaring 16,000% and attaining the leading position in the pizza category. “We will forever be Domino’s fans and customers, and we will celebrate their continued success long into the future.
CPB’s client list includes American Airlines, Hotels.com, Paypal and Vrbo.
The Domino’s loss comes at a tumultuous time for the agency, which has failed to recapture the magic it had in the early 2000s when it was seen as one of the hottest shops in the industry. It closed its offices in Miami and Los Angeles in 2018. Co-founder Alex Bogusky, who rejoined the agency in 2018, left again in early 2020. MDC pulled the agency into a cluster, dubbed Constellation, with 72andSunny and other agencies. And, like other agencies, it announced furloughs and layoffs this spring. The Domino's loss is a setback for MDC at a tough time. The holding company's revenue declined nearly 16% in the first nine months of 2020, while its net loss narrowed slightly, to $6 million.
Domino’s hired Crispin Porter + Bogusky PB in 2007, after reviewing more than 50 agencies following its split from WPP’s JWT, a partnership that lasted more than five years. CPB’s success stories for the chain included the much celebrated “Pizza Turnaround” campaign that showed Domino’s openly admitting its pizza wasn’t great and updating its recipe. With CPB’s help, Domino’s began to improve its standing in the pizza industry.
In 2017, Domino’s finalized a renewal agreement with CPB keeping the two parties together through the end of 2020. That same year, Domino’s surpassed Pizza Hut to become the biggest global pizza chain by sales. Domino’s has continued to grow. Its U.S. same-store sales jumped 17.5% in the third quarter, aided by more people staying home for meals during the pandemic and marking the chain’s 38th consecutive quarter of U.S. same-store sales growth.
“I certainly don’t think we would have achieved those results if the marketing with Crispin wasn’t effective,” says D’Elia.
Now, WorkInProgress has a three-year contract to handle Domino’s creative strategy, brand execution and digital design.
“Our hope is that we have a long partnership with WorkInProgress just as we did with Crispin,” says D’Elia, who joined Domino’s in 2018 as senior VP, chief brand and innovation officer, and was promoted to executive VP and CMO earlier this year.
“We are grateful and humbled by the opportunity to partner with Domino’s,” Matt Talbot, WorkInProgress’ chief creative officer, said in statement. “WorkInProgress is a small business, like the hundreds of Domino’s franchises across the country. And ultimately, the work we do is in service of them.”
While D’Elia had not worked with the WorkInProgress team, others at Domino’s including Dennis Maloney, chief digital officer, and Kate Trumbull, VP of advertising, know Talbot and the others who handled the Domino’s account before leaving to found their own agency four years ago.
“The work that they produced was fantastic for us,” says D’Elia.
That sentiment was echoed by Domino’s U.S. Chief Operating Officer and President Russell Weiner, who was the chain’s CMO during its first few years with CPB.
“Domino’s would not be the number one pizza company without the big ideas they have brought to us over the years,” Weiner said in a statement. “This move is not about the effectiveness of their work, they have helped our brand to drive strong sales for many years. Some of my favorite spots produced by CPB have been created recently and haven’t even aired yet. This move is mostly about the future, and the value of the independent agency model, which we feel is important for our success moving forward.”
After the WorkInProgress team left the agency, CPB continued to create notable work for the brand, including the “Paving for Pizza” campaign that offered to improve the streets near their avid fans and a spot featuring the character Norm, played by George Wendt, from the classic series “Cheers” to promote the brand’s Pie Pass. This summer, the ties between the client and the agency played out in the creative, as the daughters of CPB copywriter D’Arcy O’Neill appeared in a spot shot at home.
Meanwhile, at WorkinProgress, the standout ideas continued with its new clients. Out-of-the-box moves included outdoors brand 37.5 Technology’s experiential campaign featuring a pop-up shop accessible to only hardcore climbers (it was on the side of a cliff), as well as clever ideas for sandwich chain Jimmy John’s, which included a contest that moved one of the brand’s fans to a new home within the delivery range of the restaurant (Jimmy John’s puts strict limitations on its delivery zones in order to preserve the freshness of its food).