New Agency May Be on Menu for Pizza Hut

Brand Reaches Out to Shops for Creative Ideas Following Flat Sales, New CMO

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Pizza Hut sign.
Pizza Hut sign. Credit: iStock

Yum Brands' Pizza Hut has reached out to agencies for creative ideas, according to people familiar with the matter.

The marketer reached out to a select number of agencies for brand ideas and a potential assignment, these people said. However, it is not immediately clear whether the winning agency will execute just the requested brand idea, take the whole business, or simply be added to the roster along with Deutsch, the marketer's lead agency. There is no external consultant overseeing the process.

Optimedia is Pizza Hut's media agency, though it's believed that relationship will not be affected.

Pizza Hut did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Deutsch declined to comment.

At least in the near term, it's believed that Pizza Hut intends to keep Deutsch on its roster, while potentially adding another shop to the fold, and potentially setting up shops to compete in jump balls for creative executions.

This happened with Yum Brands sibling Taco Bell. Several years back, Deutsch inched its way onto the Taco Bell roster, which meant that the then-lead agency, FCB, had to compete for campaigns against its Interpublic Group of Cos.' sibling. Eventually Deutsch became the lead shop.

Pizza Hut has cycled through a number of agencies in recent years. Deutsch won the business from McGarryBowen without a review in July 2014. McGarryBowen, which succeeded Martin Agency, had been on the account for less than a year.

Yum sibling KFC earlier this year named Wieden & Kennedy its lead agency, moving the account from FCB.

Pizza Hut has had a habit of doling out work to roster shops that aren't the lead agency. TracyLocke, for example, handles retail for the brand, but recently released a Pizza Hut spot featuring Michael Bolton. In the current instance, however, Pizza Hut is reaching out to agencies not currently on its roster.

In November, Pizza Hut named David Timm its new U.S. chief marketing officer. He came to the pizza chain after working as chief marketing offcer for KFC in the U.K. and Ireland. He replaced Carrie Walsh, who left the company in September after less than two years in the role. Pizza Hut earlier in the year appointed Jeff Fox, a former FCB executive, chief brand and concept officer. Mr. Fox was also co-founder of Collider, a marketing consultancy that Yum acquired earlier this year.

Just over a year ago, Pizza Hut relaunched its menu with a massive marketing campaign for what it called its biggest brand evolution ever, adding 10 crust flavors and a host of other ingredients in an effort to position itself as more premium. It also relaunched its website, logo, packaging and employee uniforms. Deutsch's work for the campaign included ads where the company asks elderly Italians what they think of the new pizza.

But the relaunch didn't perform as well as hoped. Yum CEO Greg Creed said earlier this year that the new menu had not performed as well as the chain was counting on, noting that the marketing hadn't been as effective as planned. The chain has seen relatively flat sales through much of the year.

Yum brands is the 43rd largest ad spender in the U.S., according to Ad Age's Datacenter, with a total of $897.5 million spent on both measured and unmeasured media in 2014. Pizza Hut is the third largest Yum brand by ad spending, with about $233 million in the U.S. in 2014. KFC had about $252 million in spending, while Taco Bell, the largest spender, had $356.6 million, according to the Datacenter.

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