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Sparked by the success of its heat-retaining delivery bags, Domino's Pizza is improving the recipe for its hand-tossed pizza. And, for the first time in nearly a decade, taste -- rather than delivery -- will be the central theme of the chain's advertising.

The fattened pie will be touted with a new TV campaign from Campbell Mithun Esty, Minneapolis, slated for this spring, according to franchisees familiar with the plans.

It's unclear how much of the chain's $120 million annual media budget will be devoted to the effort. Domino's declined comment; CME referred calls to its client.


The new advertising will spark trial, a Domino's franchisee predicted.

"There are people out there who haven't had a Domino's pizza for a [while] because maybe the last time . . . it wasn't great. This is going to get people to say, 'Hey, maybe we should try it again,' " he said.

The move comes as the No. 2 pizza chain garners praise from consumer panels for its HeatWave pouches, which allow pizzas to be delivered with the cheese still hot and the crust still crisp.

"They are building on their big win from last year, which is their HeatWave," said John Correll, president of Correll Consulting.


The pizza tweaking comes amid stiff competition in the estimated $22 billion segment of the restaurant business. Category leader Pizza Hut, a unit of Tricon Global Restaurants, is posting strong sales with its new Big New Yorker pizza, launched Jan. 31.

Mitchell Speiser, an analyst with Lehman Bros., said Pizza Hut's same-store sales for the first quarter are likely to be up 10% above last year, thanks in part to the new product and its estimated $80 million launch via BBDO Worldwide, New York.

Domino's last week tapped David Brandon, 46, as its new CEO to succeed retired company founder Thomas Monaghan. Mr. Brandon is a former president-CEO of Valassis Communications.

A Domino's spokesman said there is no intention of switching ad agencies or marketing tactics at this time.

"We're not a company in crisis," he said. "Dave is coming in to help take us to a new level. It's not a situation where someone is going to throw out that which

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