How Pizza Hut App Got Role in Latest iPhone Spot

Chain One of Few Marketers to Receive Apple's Endorsement on TV

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CHICAGO ( –- Pizza Hut's iPhone app will be featured in an Apple-sponsored iPhone commercial breaking tonight. The pizza chain's app was the first for the fast-food space, released this past summer.

Ian Wolfman, chief marketer for Pizza Hut's digital agency, IMC2, said that while the marketer had planned to contact Apple and campaign for a place in one of its commercials, the computer maker called the pizza chain first. "And they moved quickly," Mr. Wolfman said. The initial call came just three weeks ago.

Apple did not immediately return calls for comment. Pizza Hut declined to comment for this story. The commercial will appear during "House," "The Big Bang Theory" and "Monday Night Football."

The true boost from an Apple endorsement remains hard to quantify. Apple promotes apps from a variety of other marketers, including Whole Foods, Yelp, Facebook and the New York Times. But only a few are chosen for broadcast-TV plugs. And it's good to be singled out. For instance, the iBird Explorer, a field guide for casual ornithologists, got seven seconds of an Apple commercial, and quickly became the No. 1 reference app in a 35,000 app category.

For more insight into how mobile apps are changing the marketing landscape, come to our Apps For Brands conference on September 23.
Mr. Wolfman concedes that his agency developed the app with an Apple ad in its sights, delving into development manuals and trying to re-create "the Apple juice," or seamless use of cool features such as GPS and shaking, without adding unnecessary steps.

For instance, Mr. Wolfman said, consumers can shake off ingredients they've accidentally put on the pizza, and actually watch them fall off, with a resulting picture of the pie they would like delivered. This builds trust that their order will be correct. "One of the insights we have is that when people are ordering, they want to have confidence in what [the pizza is] going to look like," he said.

Pizza Hut, which also developed the first ordering platform for Facebook, expects to pass $1 billion in online sales by 2012. As part of that effort, the chain will begin promoting its app with five-second tags at the end of its TV ads, offering a whopping 20% off orders placed by iPhone. Pizza Hut's creative agency is BBDO, New York.

The chain is also looking for ways to boost sales. It has dramatically expanded its menu to include pasta and wings, and it has struggled in recent quarters. The chain's same-store sales fell 8% during the second quarter, because the brand is heavily slated to the more-expensive dinner category. Delivery pizza has suffered as a segment during the recession, as consumers have shifted to lower-priced frozen varieties.

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