Although CEO Patrick Doyle doesn’t refer to its rival by name, the CP+B-created spot begins with Doyle saying, “Want to know a dirty little secret about the pizza business? A lot of pan pizza starts out as frozen dough.”
The commercial continues with Domino’s chefs throwing around hard, frozen clumps of dough juxtaposed to its freshly baked pizzas. “It’s easier to do things faster and cheaper,” Doyle says. “We aren’t interested in that.”
The ad is clearly an attack on its competitor, which USA Today’s Bruce Horovitz said “all but owns the pan pizza market” when Domino’s announced it would introduce homemade pan pizzas into 5,000 locations last week.
It’s also a throwback to the pizza wars of 1997, when Pizza Hut president David Novak stood on the deck of a World War II aircraft carrier and declared “war” on “skimpy low-quality pizza” in a commercial by BBDO, New York. He was referring to another chain, Papa John’s. Papa John’s hit back with a spot that contrasted its dough with that of “the biggest chain” (i.e. Pizza Hut), which it said uses “whatever comes out of the tap” to make “frozen dough or dough made the same day.”
Those commercials led to a bitter federal court fight over mutual allegations of misleading advertising, which only ended when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to decide whether Papa John’s really was serving “better pizza” or not. Domino’s thus seems to be borrowing a play from Papa John’s book to hit Pizza Hut. Domino’s tested the water with this strategy back in 2010, also.
That history explains the otherwise mystifying tagline on the spot, “Oh yes we did.” It appears to be directed at Pizza Hut’s Novack, not Domino’s customers.
Ad Age noted that Pizza Hut is unphased by this attack, which CMO Kurt Kane characterised as an attempt to “divert consumers’ attention from a massive increase in their advertised prices.”
Domino’s CMO Russell Weiner told Ad Age, “We’re not mentioning any brand by name, but what we’re saying is it would have been easier to do this with frozen dough.”
This is actually Domino’s third attempt at pan pizza. For a strange throwback, watch this attempt to dominate the pan pizza market in a 1989 spot starring discontinued Domino’s mascot, the Noid:
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