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Little Caesars' "Pizza, pizza" advertising is at least five times more efficient than McDonald's TV commercials in generating retention and awareness among viewers.

These are the only fast-food chains whose advertising has appeared regularly since 1988 in Video Storyboard Tests' annual list of outstanding campaigns. Little Caesars Pizza paid $2.8 million for each Retention Point in 1994, while McDonald's Corp. spent almost $20 million for the same level.

Retention Points are based on our annual rankings of the top 25 TV campaigns. Annual media spending, as estimated by industry sources, is brought into the equation to estimate the Cost Per Retention Point in order to measure the campaign's efficiency.

Back in 1988, Little Caesars was a midwestern chain with fewer than 2,000 outlets when it first went on national TV with the "Pizza, pizza" campaign from Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York. The strategy was to communicate value to customers of the two front-runners, Pizza Hut and Domino's Pizza. Value, of course, meant price in the first place, and quality and convenience in the second. Humor was selected as a means of delivering the message.

In 1988, the campaign paid $5.1 million per Retention Point as it appeared in the 23rd position, reflecting the price of entry. In 1989, it moved to 17th at $3 million per Retention Point and has been in the top 10 every year since 1990, including capturing the top rank in '92 with the "Conga" poodle spot.

In the world of fast-food, where campaigns-strategy and executions-are changed with every flight, Little Caesars' advertising stands out for its consistency. The message of "Two great pizzas for one low price" and the executions-humorous quality reinforcement with "Pizza, pizza" value at the end-have remained unchanged for seven years.

Of course, the ranking of the campaign on our list varies from quarter to quarter depending on the appeal of the current executions, but it's always within the top 10.

It also remains the only campaign in the past decade to rely exclusively on humor to generate retention. Most others, as a precaution, tend to combine humor with other memorable elements like celebrities, dogs, kids, etc., to accomplish this.

And the results: Little Caesars now has more than 4,500 outlets, sales have more than doubled to more than $2.1 billion and what was a very distant regional third brand in the pizza segment at the start of the campaign is most likely to be the No. 2.

Dave Vedehra

Mr. Vedehra is president of Video Storyboard Tests. Campaign Clout will be devoted to presenting the people's view of advertising. If you have any research from the viewer's point that you are willing to share with others, please fax a summary to (212) 689-0210.

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