Deepashree Banerjee
Advertising

Pizza Hut takes a dig at Domino's in first celeb-backed TVC after 8-year gap

"We're leaving a lot to imagination!" says Prashant Gaur, chief brand officer, Pizza Hut India.

Just when you thought puppets were out of fashion, good old hand-crafted puppets make a comeback in a new TV commercial... and how!

Conceptualised by Ogilvy, Pizza Hut, a division of US-based Yum! Brands Inc. has released a fresh new campaign made by Corcoise Films and directed by Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy. This marks the comeback of a celebrity-endorsed TV campaign by the brand after a hiatus of eight years.

Pizza Hut takes a dig at Domino's in first celeb-backed TVC after 8-year gap

The new advert marks the comeback of a celebrity endorsed TV campaign by the brand after a hiatus of 8 years

So what was the marketing problem that the makers of the ad wanted to solve with this new Campaign.

This time around, the attempt appears to be deliberate and rather evident. It seems quite clear that the blue puppet in the film is set to resemble rival Domino's which has a brand image in a similar colour. It looks like a conscious decision on the brand's part, to keep the script simple and less serious in tone, with the puppet concluding that the take on the rival was meant to be funny and not quite one that could trigger a controversial reaction.

Pizza Hut takes a dig at Domino's in first celeb-backed TVC after 8-year gap

Sourav Ganguly turns undercover delivery boy for this social media campaign to surprise cricket Fans

To combat the age-old rivalry with Domino's, the company had to buckle-up by upgrading equipment, improving restaurant technology and boosting advertising.

The brand has had several TV campaigns spanning the 22 years that they have been in India.

Pizza Hut takes a dig at Domino's in first celeb-backed TVC after 8-year gap

Prashant Gaur

Prashant Gaur, chief brand officer, Pizza Hut India, informs, "We have only dialled up our brand presence on television in the last 5 to 8 years."

Gaur thinks they've been quite agile in the manner in which they have engaged with their evolving audience and that the brand's campaigns have kept pace with what appeals to today's netizens.

"With increasing digitalisation and more and more consumers going online for their daily dose of information, we have made digital platforms an integral part of our media strategy. Talking about our latest campaign - It's time to switch - we break it with a set of two TVCs; one on the recently launched pan pizza range and the other on - WOW! Everyday value," he sums up.

Thoughts behind roping a non-mainstream actor like Abhay Deol?

"We wanted our TVCs for the new campaign to have a protagonist that our audiences can resonate with. Abhay is known for his unconventional style and a cool and confident personality, something that personifies the brand and gels well with it," Gaur explains.

Pizza Hut takes a dig at Domino's in first celeb-backed TVC after 8-year gap

#YourSliceOfSimple, an ad released this year by Pizza Hut Singapore

When discussing how the brand appears to be taking a jibe at a rival, Gaur shrugs off any such probability and elaborates on the choice of using puppets as a creative device, "The TVCs use subtle humour where the puppets are seen switching to the all-new Pizza Hut. Abhay Deol, known for his unique comic style, brings out the best of the situation in the ads, giving the campaign its very essence."

Pizza Hut takes a dig at Domino's in first celeb-backed TVC after 8-year gap

A date doesn't go as planned...

When quizzed on the brand's decision to 'beep out' some parts of the puppet's dialogue in the video, Gaur gets candid, "Yes, we are leaving a lot to the imagination!"

Pizza Hut takes a dig at Domino's in first celeb-backed TVC after 8-year gap

#IndiasMostWantedPizzas, witness the Epic Battle of the crusts, ad released by Pizza Hut India last year

Several ingredients may be behind the utter dominance of Domino's Pizza over its rivals recently. The pizza chain continues to aggressively remodel its restaurants using its "pizza theatre" concept, as Domino's calls it, in order to lure patrons.

Pizza Hut takes a dig at Domino's in first celeb-backed TVC after 8-year gap

A TVC, titled "Twins" released in 2011 featuring Indian film and theater actor Rajit Kapur and Shernaz Patel

Pizza Hut takes a dig at Domino's in first celeb-backed TVC after 8-year gap

Ad featuring actor Sushant Singh Rajput

Pizza Hut takes a dig at Domino's in first celeb-backed TVC after 8-year gap

A 2009 ad featuring Lara Dutta

Pizza Hut takes a dig at Domino's in first celeb-backed TVC after 8-year gap

Ajay Gahlaut

On the brand's brief, Ajay Gahlaut, deputy CCO - Ogilvy India/ CCO - Ogilvy - North tells us, "We were asked to communicate the core message - It's time to switch - in the most entertaining way possible. Being a pizza brand, we wanted the TVCs to be fun and that's when the idea of puppets came into play."

On getting Deol on board, he shares, "He is confident, self-assured and speaks the language and you just know by looking at him that he will never settle when it comes to pizza."

Gahlaut thinks this campaign caters to all pizza lovers, irrespective of demographics or psychographics.

Also, let's not forget the offshore Pizza Hut advertisement starring Donald and Ivana Trump that kicked off the success of the chain's stuffed-crust pizza back in 1995.

Deal maker or deal breaker?

Ramanujam Sridhar, CEO and founder of Brand-Comm raises a potent question, "Whilst kids, teenagers and young adults are the prime movers who bring Pizza into the home for anyone to consume, I am wondering whom the advertising is targeting?"

Pizza Hut takes a dig at Domino's in first celeb-backed TVC after 8-year gap

Ramanujam Sridhar

Pizza Hut takes a dig at Domino's in first celeb-backed TVC after 8-year gap

Bikram Bindra

"Clearly, it is taking weak pot shots at the dominant brand but it is too clever by half. Puppets are as old as the hills, even if the QSR category may not have used the tactic. Consumers tend to compare advertising across categories, unlike us," he quips.

There is nothing Sridhar feels that will move or shake the category or make the competition worry in this "me too" commercial with a celebrity who is not a blockbuster.

Will it make him change his brand? "Not a chance!" he adds.

The brand is palpably trying to convert hardcore Domino's loyalists to Pizza Hut. "Whether this campaign is the solution, is a big 'if'. It needs a combination of offers as the market is driven by innovative offers," Sridhar winds up.

Bikram Bindra, vice-president and strategic planning head, Grey group Delhi, believes this campaign carries a clear marketing agenda: get lapsers back into the fold.

Pizza Hut, historically known for serving up the 'better' pizza, has potentially been losing favour with a fickle audience that has been lured away with consistent discounting and an almost 'forced' loyalty by the other big player in this category.

"The intent of the film is to subtly make us question that preference and using an unusual creative device (like the puppet or even a non-mainstream actor like Abhay Deol) ensures a mental availability long after the film is viewed and a break from the cookie-cutter approach of the category," he shares.

Bindra also feels that it doesn't do an adequate enough job of establishing the 'superiority' of the product. This lends itself to several short takes on the various advantages the brand has which should be leveraged.

"Strangely though, the film ends with a big promotion tag - almost defeating the purpose of the film itself and in my mind, should have a communication message best left for another medium," he signs off.

A quick look at the ads released by the dominant player in the pizza category Domino’s in the recent past:

Pizza Hut takes a dig at Domino's in first celeb-backed TVC after 8-year gap

To mark the launch of its winter menu, Domino’s India rolled out a TVC featuring Rocky Singh and Mayur Sharma

Pizza Hut takes a dig at Domino's in first celeb-backed TVC after 8-year gap

From free pizzas if the order gets delivered after 30 minutes of placement, to one pizza free on order of another, the pizza giant has undertaken many permutations and combinations to lure its customers.

Pizza Hut takes a dig at Domino's in first celeb-backed TVC after 8-year gap

In 2017, actor Paresh Rawal was back in the Domino’s ad-film Pizza aaye free, created by Contract India