Jessica Simpson, Muppets to Star in Spot for New Pie

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CHICAGO ( -- Pizza Hut is making a $50 million Super Bowl bet, launching a pizza concept it hopes will reassert its family positioning and fend off increased category competition.

After months of sluggish sales and increased competition from the frozen-pizza segment and delivery leader Domino's Pizza, Pizza Hut last February vowed to boost its marketing budget and refocus on the customer. Last May, Pizza Hut bowed its family positioning using the "Gather 'round the good stuff," theme line.

4 personal pies in one
The new "pie," dubbed the 4forAll, four individually topped 6-inch-by-6-inch square pies in a 16-inch box for $11.99. Each pie can be dressed with up to three toppings or use one of its Lover's line of pie-topping combinations.

The Yum Brands chain originally planned to launch its Homestyle Pizza during the Super Bowl, but changed its plans after a market test of the 4forAll in Jacksonville, Fla., late last summer.

"This is truly an exciting new offering," said Laura Ries, president of Atlanta-based marketing consultant Ries & Ries, saying that when a family orders pizza, "everybody wants something different. This is a unique offering more so than [past offerings] because it solves a real problem."

Big push before big game
Pizza Hut is leading up to a big push with a public relations and direct mail effort from Omnicom Group's TLP, Dallas, beginning today. Teaser TV spots from Omnicom sibling BBDO Worldwide, New York, will break the week of Jan. 26, building up to the pre-kick-off slot during the Feb. 1 Super Bowl.

Last week, the chain signed pop ditz-reality TV star Jessica Simpson and the Muppets to star in the Super Bowl effort. Pizza Hut wouldn't divulge the storyline, but Sean Gleason, vice president of marketing communications, described the idea as "Miss Piggy gets jealous of the latest 'it' girl."

"We're going to own the pre-game programming from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., which is prime pizza ordering in time for the game," said Cindy Davis, vice president of national marketing for Pizza Hut.

Tom James, chief marketing officer of Pizza Hut, expects the new pies to meet or exceed sales of its earlier Stuff Crust and Big New Yorker pies.

20% market share
With $5.1 billion in domestic sales in 2002, Pizza Hut controls roughly 20% of the pizza segment among the top 100 chains, according to Technomic. Pizza Hut recorded flat same-store sales for the fourth quarter despite a 4% boost in December. The frozen-pizza segment is expected to grow 6% through 2008 while ready-to-eat pizza will grow only 2.3%, according to a 2003 study from Business Trend Analysts' Leading Edge Reports.

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