Little Caesars is launching its first national campaign in 15
years, once again putting its iconic "Pizza! Pizza!" tagline and
Little Caesar character front and center.
Ed Gleich, senior VP-global marketing, who joined Little Caesars
in October, said the chain is using national media to "amplify" the
"Pizza! Pizza!" tagline. "We're in every state, and it was time to
tie media together," he said, adding that it was a matter of "being
efficient and getting more for our investment." Local buys had been
used when there was no national campaign.
The Little Caesar is back.
The campaign, launching this week and created by BFG 9000, will
include TV, radio and digital, as well as local print. Horizon Media
handles media services. "It seems like everyone got really serious
about pizza all of a sudden, talking about artisanal pizzas and
apologizing for the way their pizza was made," said Gerry Graf,
founder and chief creative officer at BFG 9000. "But if you take a
step back and look at pizza, it's fun."
In one TV spot, two teenagers approach their grandfather and
say, "Hey, Grandpa, we got this large pizza for five bucks," to
which the man responds, "Well, paint me blue and call me Babe."
"Pizza! Pizza!" was introduced in 1979 to promote the chain's
"two great pizzas, one low price" offer, and was popularized about
10 years later by Cliff Freeman & Partners, the chain's agency
"Pizza! Pizza!" is no longer being used to promote a two-pizza
offer, but most Americans know the tagline, "so you wouldn't just
throw that out and present Little Caesars in a new way," said Mr.
The main promotion nowadays is its $5 large pepperoni
Hot-N-Ready pizza, as well as its $8 large three-meat pizza.
Mr. Gleich said the Little Caesar character and tagline have
"extremely strong positive brand perceptions. ... [It] may have
started out [as a] pizza promotion, but it's evolved to stand for
The chain had the benefit of a low price point throughout the
recession, and so was less affected by hard times than rival
chains, said Darren Tristano, exec VP at Technomic. "They've been
able to grow the brand with a price point [that was] an affordable
option for most Americans. ... They really stand for value more
than any other brand." A recent Sandelman & Associates survey
rated Little Caesars the best value for the money.
Its growth came after a tumultuous "90s and early 2000s. In 1996
Little Caesars had an estimated 4,800 locations in the U.S.,
according to Technomic. Its highest estimated U.S. sales were
nearly $2 billion in 1992. But as chains like now-No. 3 chain Papa
John's went public and began expanding, competition in the pizza
space became fierce. As Pizza Hut, Domino's, Papa John's and No. 4
Little Caesars duked it out, discounting became prevalent.
The chain, privately owned by Ilitch Holdings, was also at odds
with franchisees, who filed a lawsuit in 1999 claiming that
mandatory contributions to national ad campaigns didn't benefit
them and that they were forced to use a company-owned supplier
whose quality had decreased. A settlement was reached in 2001.
By 2002, Little Caesars had an estimated 1,343 units; the next
year it eked out $650 million in U.S. sales. Measured-media
spending followed suit. In 1997, the chain spent $36 .8 million in
the U.S., according to Kantar Media. By 2001, the chain had slashed
that to less than $3 million.
But it has built back up to 3,500 units in 2011, as estimated by
Technomic, with nearly $1.5 billion in systemwide U.S. sales, and
media spending increased to $22 .4 million. Little Caesars was the
third-fastest-growing chain in the U.S. in the three years ended
fall 2011, adding 826 units in that time, according to NPD
Maureen covers agencies as well as all things mobile, including the carriers, handsets and advertising, for Ad Age out of San Francisco. She previously wrote about the marketing of the fast food industry for Ad Age while also covering the agency world. Before entering reporting, she was Ad Age's research editor, helping lead research and analysis for the publication's reports including the Agency Report, Leading National Advertisers and 100 Leading Media Companies.