Papa John's taps Havas Media as integrated media agency of record

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Steve Ritchie talks with a team member at a store in Detroit as part of a nationwide listening tour.
Steve Ritchie talks with a team member at a store in Detroit as part of a nationwide listening tour. Credit: Papa John's

Papa John's said it has tapped Havas Media as its new integrated media agency of record.

The pizza chain says the decision, effective Oct. 1, comes after a competitive review. Papa John's previous media agency Initiative resigned the client in mid-July as the brand was embroiled in controversy. Havas confirmed the relationship.

This summer, a Forbes article revealed that Papa John's founder John Schnatter had used the "n-word" during a training call in May with Laundry Service, the chain's creative agency at the time. In the aftermath, the pizza chain saw a number of its agencies resign the account. Initially, Initiative said it was sticking with Papa John's, but in mid-July U.S. CEO Amy Armstrong said the media agency was reversing course because "additional information" had come to light. That decision came the same day as Forbes published a widely-shared story titled "The Inside Story of Papa John's Toxic Culture." The shop declined to comment on the new agency selection.

Papa John's stayed largely silent in marketing for a few weeks after the Schnatter story broke in July. In September it began running a campaign from Endeavor Global Marketing — which the chain hired two months ago — focused on various people who work at the chain, such as franchisees and managers.

Now, Papa John's has new agencies on PR, creative and media. It has not named a new chief marketing officer since Brandon Rhoten departed in May. But last week it elevated Melissa Richards-Person to the role of senior VP, chief brand officer as part of a broader leadership overhaul. Richards-Person had previously been VP of global brand strategy and consumer connections.

In August when the pizza chain tapped Endeavor Global Marketing, Papa John's CEO Steve Ritchie said the brand is at a "pivotal moment." In a statement at the time, he said, "We need to earn back the trust of the consumer and we need to demonstrate our commitment to being inclusive."

In 2017, Louisville, Kentucky-based Papa John's International's U.S. ad spending was $241 million, up from $235 million in 2016, according to the Ad Age Datacenter.

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