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California Pizza Kitchen, the upscale pizza chain, has launched its first major branding campaign, with outdoor ads that create amusing links to local businesses.

One outdoor board, placed atop a dental office, reads: "They prefer you lay off the garlic chicken pizza before your appointment." Reads another, atop a florist, "Because giving her a dozen fresh tomato pizzas seems a bit excessive."

Each board then gives the location of the closest California Pizza Kitchen.


The campaign, the first extensive work from new agency Colby Effler & Partners, Santa Monica, Calif., is slated to run through September in Los Angeles, the chain's home market.

While California Pizza Kitchen's ad budget of an estimated $300,000 hardly registers when compared with former sibling Pizza Hut's estimated $150 million, it marks a significant increase in spending -- and in commitment -- to traditional advertising.

Last year, the chain spent a mere $49,000 in measured media, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Both chains were owned by PepsiCo until last year.

California Pizza Kitchen features trendy pizzas with flavors such as Thai chicken and rosemary chicken potato, plus a range of pastas, salads and appetizers in a casual setting with table service. It has 75 units in 20 states, and was sold last fall to an investor group. That move came when PepsiCo also spun off its big fast-food brands into a separate company, Tricon Global Restaurants.

As California Pizza Kitchen expands -- current plans call for 12 new units per year -- the advertising is expected to roll into additional markets.


Chicago is likely to be next for the campaign, said Sarah Goldsmith, VP-public relations and advertising. That market now has five outlets.

"Historically, we've spent very little money on advertising," said Rick Rosenfeld, co-chair and chain co-founder. "In addressing advertising, we needed to find a way to become top of mind but do it in a way that makes people smile, not in a way that suggests that we're advertising with a two-for-one special or discount coupons."

Mr. Rosenfeld said the new campaign is the first he's been presented with over the years that has stood out enough for the company to want to back it.

"This creative jumped out at me and made us all laugh," he said.

Mr. Rosenfeld said the company sees great promise in its new scaled-down takeout concept, CPK ASAP, which has some nine locations in U.S. airports. Research is under way to find a site outside an airport setting to test, he said.


This month, the chain is introducing a line of thin-crust Neapolitan pizzas; a new appetizer, Tortilla Spring Rolls; a Provencal salad; and two new desserts.

Results have been positive from a move last fall to increase portion sizes without boosting prices, Mr. Rosenfeld said.

"Our customers have come to expect us to be constantly evolving," he noted.

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