New Pizza Hut campaign makes emotional pitch

New Pizza Hut campaign makes emotional pitch

Suzanne Kapner

WICHITA, Kan. — Nothing beats good times, great friends and a large pie with the works. At least, that’s what Pizza Hut marketing vice president Tim Pulido is banking on as his new advertising campaigns set out to capture “the emotional aspect of the food experience.”

Emotional appeal

“You need to make an emotional as well as a rational appeal,” said Pulido, who took his post in March after a 13-year stint with parent company PepsiCo. Most recently, Pulido served as Pizza Hut divisional vice president for Florida and the Northeast.

The emotional pitch comes at a time of rocky performance for the pizza giant. Same-store sales for domestic company-owned units declined 5 percent in the second quarter, ended June 11.

“Our whole point is to drive sales,” Pulido said, adding that two television campaigns — “Falling in Love Again” and “Pizza Head” — are critical to the chain’s marketing success.

The Falling in Love Again campaign, which has been running since late May, features friends sharing good times while they dig into cheese-laden pies topped with everything from sausage and meatballs to vegetables.

Aside from the emotional emphasis, the spot is unique in that it features the restaurant as opposed to the delivery service. Most of the frames show customers enjoying themselves while eating in the restaurant.

Pulido said the eat-in emphasis is temporary and stressed that future ads will highlight different segments, including carryout and delivery.

Running concurrently with the Falling in Love Again television campaign is an in-house promotion that offers in-store customers salad, bread sticks and dessert pizza — a thin-crust pizza topped with apple pie filling and laced with vanilla icing — free of charge when they purchase a medium or large pizza at the regular menu price.

“We see this as a way of providing value to our dine-in customers,” Pulido said. “Just because we have a dine-in promo and the first one in a while doesn’t mean we are going back to a solely eat-in concept.”

The in-house promotion, which began June 27, will run in stores throughout the summer, and Pulido said he is considering retaining the deal as a permanent offering for eat-in customers.

Pizza head, based on the Mr. Bill skit from the early days of “Saturday Night Live,” develops its own emotional attachment for kids ages 8 through 12 through the hapless adventures of the spot’s namesake.

This animated slice of pie with a gullible personality is constantly in peril thanks to his nemesis Steve, a pizza cutter. The first ad, which ran in late May, features a promotion Pizza Hut is running with Marvel comics, which offers kids a pizza pack containing a Marvel card, a Marvel comic book and a cup for $2.99.

In the spot Pizza Head is crushed by a stack of Marvel comics and then finds himself in the direct line of a meteor, which is heading straight for earth. Steve, the pizza cutter, shows up disguised as a superhero and purposely fails to save Pizza Head, who yells, “Next time send a real superhero.”

With this campaign, Pizza Hut veers away from its traditional 3-to-6-year-old age bracket and moves to an older group. While the company has courted children for years with its “Kids Night” — a promotion that is held on Tuesday evenings and offers kids special-value meals, games or balloons — the Pizza Head spot is the first time the chain targets children more than six years old.

Kids make decisions

“Over 60 percent of all pizza occasions occur with kids,” Pulido said. “Kids 8 to 12 are more the decision makers of the household [than younger kids],” he added, explaining the marketing shift.

The Pizza Head campaign is slotted for popular kid shows on all the major networks, including Fox, ABC and NBC.

“We’ve made a conscious effort to focus on kids alone,” Pulido said. “We want kids to see this first and say, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s cool.'”

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