Papa John's hires Endeavor Global Marketing

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Papa John's
Papa John's Credit: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

Papa John's has hired Endeavor Global Marketing as its creative agency of record and strategic marketing partner as the struggling pizza chain tries to restore its reputation.

The No. 4 pizza chain confirmed the agency news, which was first reported by Adweek. The agency selection comes weeks after Endeavor announced Bozoma Saint John as its CMO.

Three weeks ago, Papa John's came under increased fire after a Forbes story revealed founder John Schnatter's use of the n-word and other racial slurs on a May media training call with Laundry Service, its creative agency at the time. Schnatter, who admitted he said the words but that they were taken out of context, relinquished the chairman post hours after the initial Forbes story ran. He had already stepped down as CEO in late 2017 and handed that role to Steve Ritchie.

Soon, agencies working with Papa John's, which had churned through a few CMOs and agencies in recent years, began to distance themselves from the chain, which had long featured Schnatter in its marketing. Laundry Service, as Forbes reported, left the account. PR agency Olson Engage resigned the account. Publicis Groupe's Fallon said that while it began working with Papa John's in mid-June, it was leaving the account after hearing about the incident with Laundry Service. IPG Mediabrands-owned media agency Initiative, which initially stood by Papa John's, stopped working with the chain because "additional information" had come to light, an announcement made after another Forbes report on company culture at the pizza chain.

Before hiring Endeavor, Papa John's did have another agency relationship in place in PR: Powell Tate, a specialty public affairs unit of IPG's Weber Shandwick, has been working on communications strategy.

Ritchie issued a statement:

"We met with the Endeavor Global Marketing team, led by Bozoma Saint John, Ed Horne and Seth Matlins, and they blew us away with their perspective, experience and creativity," Ritchie said. "The brand is at a pivotal moment. We need to earn back the trust of the consumer and we need to demonstrate our commitment to being inclusive. We believe Endeavor Global Marketing is the right team to help us do that."

Even before its latest controversies with the founder, Papa John's had churned through marketers. CMO Brandon Rhoten, who hired Laundry Service in October, was with the company for about a year before leaving in May. Before him, CMO Bob Kraut left Papa John's after less than two years in the job. Andrew Varga was Papa John's first CMO beginning in 2009 and resigned in 2013 to become president of Zimmerman Advertising, Papa John's advertising agency of record at the time.

On the agency front, Laundry Service took over from Grey, which had the creative account from 2014 until 2017. Before that, it was handled by Zimmerman.

Meanwhile Wednesday, Papa John's said on social media that has begun a listening tour and promised there is "more to come."

Papa John's is due to report second-quarter results on Aug. 7.

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