Little Caesar Enterprises, Inc.

views updated

Little Caesar Enterprises, Inc.


2211 Woodward Ave.
Detroit, Michigan 48201
Telephone: (313) 983-6000
Fax: (313) 983-6390
Web site:



Though few consumers would connect complicated mathematical equations and the latest scientific advances in biology with Little Caesar Enterprises, Inc., both figured into an early 1997 advertising campaign for Little Caesars Pizza, as the company is commonly known. Dreamed up by Cliff Freeman & Partners, who had been providing Little Caesars' wacky ads since 1986, the "Cloning" campaign was delivered to television audiences in March 1997.

Known for wildly improbable and quirky commercials, Cliff Freeman & Partners rolled out the "Cloning" campaign on the heels of one of the century's biggest biological bombshells—the cloning of Dolly the sheep. The campaign consisted of three television spots (the original 30-second spot, followed by 20- and 15-second versions), as well as print advertising for Little Caesars' latest bargain, the Unlimited Pizza. This product incarnation was available for only $6.99 and consisted of any size pizza, in round or square crust, with any combination of 12 toppings, which meant, mathematically speaking, hundreds of millions of available choices. The first Unlimited Pizza was only $6.99, and customers could order a second for $6.99 and receive a free order of Crazy Bread as well.

The Cloning commercial, launched March 31, 1997, portrayed a group of white-coated scientists (a writer for the Orange County Register likened them to something from an Ed Wood movie) watching a colleague in a glass-encased room with a sheep. As another scientist pressed a clearly marked red "cloning" button, a second sheep, identical to the first, appeared. The scientists, mad with glee, were interrupted by the arrival of two pizzas from Little Caesars. They were all so excited about the Unlimited Pizza deal that no one noticed that the pizzas were placed on top of the red button. As the red button then produced dozens of sheep, the slaphappy and blissfully ignorant scientists expounded on the excellent value of Little Caesars. The last shot showed the glass room overflowing with cloned sheep and the trapped scientist fruitlessly holding up a handwritten "help" sign.


Little Caesars was the brainchild of Michael and Marian Ilitch, who joined in the post-World War II pizza boom. Brought to the United States by Italian immigrants decades earlier, pizza took the country by storm after hundreds of thousands of enlisted men came home after eating it in Europe. The Ilitches' first restaurant debuted in 1959, where pizza became their most-requested menu item, and the first "Little Caesars" opened in 1962.

In 1998 Little Caesars boasted more than 4,800 outlets in the United States, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Guam, Honduras, Korea, Puerto Rico, and the Czech and Slovak Republics. The Little Caesars chain was the third-largest pizza producer in the country, selling as many as four million pies (with the same recipe perfected in 1959) per week. At the time of the "Cloning" campaign, Little Caesars was struggling to maintain its market share and to juice sales after flat numbers for three years running. Though the Little Caesars brand was well known, consumers had an increasing number of choices for their pizza dollars—including fast food giants like McDonald's, which was test-marketing small pizzas.

The tag line "Pizza! Pizza!" was initiated by Little Caesars back in the early 1970s, when it began selling two pizzas for the price of one. Other pizza makers followed suit, at least for awhile, but most could not cover the costs; Pizza Hut and Domino's offered a second pizza for a nominal cost, such as four or five dollars. Little Caesars truly hit the big time in the 1980s and signed up with Cliff Freeman & Partners in 1986. Armed with about 5 percent of its annual revenues (which were $400 million in 1986), Little Caesars took a serious leap into television advertising, and its choice of Cliff Freeman & Partners was a favorable one. Known in the industry for such humorous classics as Almond Joy's "Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut" and Wendy's "Where's the Beef?" the creative team at Cliff Freeman soon put their spin on Little Caesars' products and turned out a series of goofy commercials that became the hallmark of Little Caesars' pizza.

Pizza carryout and delivery consumption heated up considerably in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and the Big Three—Pizza Hut, Domino's, and Little Caesars—used a myriad of approaches to differentiate themselves from one another in the consumer's mind. Although all touted value, Little Caesars was far and away the value leader. Pizza Hut's mainstay was its sit-down, red-roofed restaurants, and Domino's was better known for its delivery service. Pizza Hut and Little Caesars had also stepped up delivery (although Little Caesars originally delivered pizzas in the 1960s, it went to carryout only in the 1970s), but neither could top Domino's in this market segment. Little Caesars had some dine-in outlets, including "pizza stations" inside Kmart stores, but Pizza Hut ruled the sit-down segment with over 8,600 restaurants.

To bring greater awareness to its calling card—value—Little Caesars had to reinvent itself and its brand. As in the past, it turned to the creative minds at Cliff Freeman & Partners. Unfortunately for those at Cliff Freeman, the success of earlier campaigns like the "Conga Line," "Big! Big!" and "Safety Video" raised high expectations.


Little Caesars' marketing has remained the same for each of its advertising campaigns—always targeting families and adults aged 18 to 49. Although the Unlimited Pizza's most recent predecessors (Pizza by the Foot and the Giant Caesar) appealed more heavily to crowds because of the sheer volume of pizza, the Unlimited Pizza appealed not only to this crowd but also to smaller groups or families who were more concerned with what was on their pizza than with gorging themselves. All of Little Caesars' pizzas were geared toward the budget-conscious; they were usually priced several dollars less than Pizza Hut or Domino's pizzas and provided enough food for at least one dinner and possibly leftovers as well. As a further bonus, if two Unlimited Pizzas were ordered at $6.99 each, Little Caesars threw in a complimentary order of Crazy Bread.

In addition to the age and income range of its customers, Little Caesars consistently targeted customers with a strong sense of the absurd, those who would laugh at highly improbable but humorous situations populated with bizarre characters. Cliff Freeman & Partners' commercials were always a bit left field, but they were well liked and remembered in consumer polls. The success of the quirky ads led consumers and Madison Avenue to expect more not only from Cliff Freeman & Partners but from Little Caesars as well.


Picture Nero noshing on a flat, breadlike substance covered with red sauce and varied ingredients as he hollers to bring in the lions. Yes, pizza has been around since the Roman Empire, at least according to Greg Hardesty of the Orange County Register. Early pies were probably topped with garlic, leeks, and herbs. Mozzarella cheese was not added until the seventh century, and by the 1880s pizza had become a staple for Italian royalty and peasants alike, with scores of immigrants bringing the dish to the United States. Soldiers ate pizza on the run during World War II, and the dish enjoyed a surge of popularity when they came back home, which in turn spawned Pizza Hut, Little Caesars, Domino's, and thousands of neighborhood pizzerias.


The fast food pizza segment had been ruled for decades by the Big Three until in the 1990s brought the emergence of the Louisville, Kentucky-based Papa John's International. Within a few short years, Papa John's had risen from nowhere to become the seventh-ranked pizza chain in 1994, then the fourth in 1996 with phenomenal growth in units, robust same-store sales, and burgeoning overall sales. The Big Three, however, took turns suffering setbacks and debacles: Pizza Hut's Big Foot and Triple Decker pizzas were "boom-splats," a term the chain coined itself. Domino's dove into reckless spending, and its famous 30-minute guarantee was blamed for car accidents and spurred lawsuits. Little Caesars' national rollout of delivery services met with little enthusiasm, and its sales were falling.

Minor setbacks loomed large for the Big Three as Papa John's grew rapidly, but Little Caesars was the most vulnerable of the bunch. Not only had the company lost a 10-year veteran to rival Domino's, but both Domino's and Pizza Hut were taking direct aim at Little Caesars' customers. Both chains introduced huge, cheaply priced pizzas, and Domino's went so far as to create Twisty Bread, remarkably similar to Little Caesars' Crazy Bread, and to debut amusing television commercials with a cartoon character. For its part, Papa John's was not fiddling much with different products or over-the-top promotions—the company stressed a quality pizza that tasted good. Plenty of consumers agreed, often citing Papa John's as the best tasting pizza in surveys. The franchise was named "Best Pizza Chain in America" in 1998 by Restaurants & Institutions and also topped its food quality, service, and convenience categories. Papa John's expanded in all directions, opening a new outlet virtually every day, with hopes for 2,000 by the year 2000.

For Little Caesars, new product rollouts generally took two months from conception to the completed ad campaign. With heavy pressure to boost sales, Little Caesars rolled out two huge pizza products (the Giant Caesar and Pizza by the Foot) in quick succession in 1996, a time when its market share was eroding and same-store sales were weakening. The Unlimited Pizza's debut in early 1997 was still a statement in value but also heralded another approach: to concentrate on better pizza rather than simply more pizza.


Although the Cloning commercial was timely and as absurd as Cliff Freeman & Partners' usual television ads for Little Caesars, the company's print ads added another dimension to the campaign. Previous ad campaigns had consisted of a television commercial (usually in 30-, 20-, and 15-second versions), print ads, and radio spots, but the Unlimited Pizza rollout had no such accompanying radio spots, just print ads in newspapers and local direct mailers. Little Caesars' print ads were usually retreads of television commercials, yet in Unlimited Pizza's case, the print ads took another tack entirely. There was no reference to cloning sheep; a lesson in mathematics was given instead. By playing with numbers, signifying the nearly "unlimited" possibilities for its latest pizza rollout, Little Caesars was once again betting on its buzz word—value—but also on variety.

Value and variety were a complementary pair, successfully parlayed by Little Caesars with its Pizza by the Foot. In this three-square-foot behemoth, customers could enjoy a different topping on each one-foot section. The Unlimited Pizza, however, took variety to the extreme, offering any size (small, medium, or large) or shape (round or square) pizza, with any combination of 12 toppings. And herein was the mathematical lesson: if customers ordered two different Unlimited Pizzas, how many variations could be concocted? The folks at Little Caesars turned to finance professors at nearby Wayne State University, who determined that there were 302,002,176 possible combinations, more than enough to last a lifetime. In fact, according to Wayne State's professor Rob Wolf, you could "eat a different pizza every meal of every day for more than 275,000 years!"

The hype of the Unlimited Pizza's print ads appealed to younger pizza fans who delighted in experimenting, to those who loved pies with multiple toppings, and, with the very inexpensive price of $6.99, even to those who wanted only cheese and sausage. Little Caesars' only difficulty in enticing the younger generation was that most of its outlets did not have delivery, and younger, teenage consumers could not drive. Such consumers had to rely on a busy mom or dad or call another pizza maker.

In contrast to the Giant Caesar or Pizza by the Foot, the Unlimited Pizza did not require specially made pans and delivery boxes or as much oven space. At the outset, the new pizza product did not require extra spending because Little Caesars already had everything necessary to make the Unlimited Pizza—unless customers ordered so many more toppings than usual that there were shortages, which was unlikely.


Although the Cloning commercial was not as popular with consumers and Madison Avenue as previous ad campaigns, the product did well enough to still be available at Little Caesars more than a year later. The television campaign, although oddly funny, did not produce the guffaws necessary to pull the company from its doldrums, which may have been the impetus for the next two moves made by Little Caesars. One was to return to the bigger-is-better theme by bumping up the size of its small, medium, and large pies by 4 inches each, from 10, 12, and 14 inches to 14, 16, and 18 inches. The other step, which was much more profound, was to put its $40 million advertising account up for review in early 1998, effectively ending its 12-year relationship with Cliff Freeman & Partners.

Despite the "Cloning" campaign's awards (a Silver Clio and two Communication Arts citations), rumors had circulated that the management at Little Caesars and Cliff Freeman were no longer seeing eye-to-eye on marketing strategy. With stagnant revenues of $1.8 billion for 1995, 1996, and 1997 and a host of other difficulties, Little Caesars needed a blockbuster ad campaign and felt a change of scenery might provide the boost. Yet regardless of what the future would bring, Little Caesars still had run more award-winning ad campaigns than any other pizza chain and could rest on its laurels for a while—if the words "Pizza! Pizza!" were uttered in quick succession, everyone immediately thought of Little Caesars.

So what was more important to pizza buyers: size, crust, or toppings? Cost or convenience? Little Caesars had geared its pizzas to just about every preference at some point, with Big! Big!, Giant Caesar, and Pizza by the Foot tackling size, with stuffed or seasoned crusts for dough lovers, and with the Unlimited Pizza for topping combinations. The chain always kept its price low and bet on the convenience factor by placing outlets in Kmart stores and Holiday Inn hotels, by rolling out credit card use in Utah, and by establishing plenty of neighborhood Little Caesars throughout North America and abroad. With lackluster sales in the late 1990s, the company needed some fine-tuning and perhaps a new product or variation so different it snapped consumers to attention. Little Caesars clearly hoped its new ad agency, Bozell Worldwide, would be the key to its rejuvenation.


Benezra, Karen. "Pizza Parting: Revamping Caesars Splits with Agency." Brandweek, February 23, 1998.

Child, Charles. "Domino's Preparing to Step up Pizza War." Crain's Detroit Business, May 31, 1993.

Enrico, Dottie. "Little Caesars Pleases, but Misses Topping Previous Ads." USA Today, July 21, 1997.

Frank, Robert. "Marketing and Media: Building a Better Pie—Pizza Hut Is Topping Rivals with Cheese…." Wall Street Journal, January 18, 1996.

Halliday, Jean. "Variety Is the Spice of Life in Domino's Pizza-War Plan." Crain's Detroit Business, August 2, 1993.

Hardesty, Greg. "More Dough: With Fast Food Consumption Up, New Pizza Players Battle Entrenched Chains for a Slice of the Profits." Orange County Register, June 22, 1998.

Howard, Theresa. "Pizza's 'Big Three' Hold the Gimmicks, Serve Simplicity." Nation's Restaurant News, January 13, 1997.

Lutton, Christine. "Sizing up the Pies: When It Comes to Monster Pizzas, Big Does Not Mean Better, Our Tasters Say." Virginian-Pilot/Ledger-Star (Norfolk), August 5, 1993.

Merritt, Jennifer. "Fast Food: Chains Have Long History of Gimmicks." Knight-Ridder News Service, January 7, 1998.

Outhier, Craig. "Time after Time: Commercial Appeal." Orange County Register, June 22, 1997.

Prewitt, Milford. "Pizza Chains Ditch Discounts in Back-to-Basics Bake-Off." Nation's Restaurant News, August 1, 1994.

Rose, Peter. "Pizzeria Owners Find Their Niche in Crowded Boise Market." Idaho Business Review, April 9, 1994.

Rubenstein, Ed. "Size Matters in New Campaigns Set to Attack the Competition." Nation's Restaurant News, September 22, 1997.

                                Taryn Benbow-Pfalzgraf



Little Caesars, an international pizza chain of more than 4,800 units, is well known in the advertising industry for its quirky "Pizza! Pizza!" television commercials. Created with Cliff Freeman & Partners, the ads feature bizarre humor and absurd comic images while avoiding hard-sell directives.

A mainstay of Little Caesars pizza has always been value; the company provided customers with two pizzas for the price of one or bigger pizzas for less money than its primary competitors Pizza Hut, Domino's, and Papa John's. With the introduction of the "Giant Caesar" pizza in the fall of 1996, Little Caesars again demonstrated to consumers that it would always provide more pizza for the money, and to prove it the Giant Caesar pizza was more than 65 percent bigger than standard 14-inch large pizzas and sold for the very attractive price of $9.99 or $10.99 depending on the geographic area. The 8-slice, 18-inch pizza was also filled with larger-than-life ingredients, including three-inch pepperoni and giant-sized ham toppings.

The Giant Caesar pizza campaign revolved around the old adage that size does indeed matter, with the Little Caesars pizza dwarfing items generally considered huge or outsized, such as the Grand Canyon (from which the campaign took its name) and mainland China. The campaign even played on the most common "size" joke about male genitalia. The national television spot featured several straight-faced hayseeds eating the pizza in the first two (Grand Canyon and China) vignettes and an elderly couple in bed on their honeymoon in the third vignette. The ad had the tag line "The new Giant Caesar makes everything else look small." The 30-second commercial, launched on August 12, 1996, was run during popular prime-time television programming and during sporting events, and was accompanied by radio and print advertising.


The Little Caesars franchise—owned by parent company Little Caesar Enterprises, Inc.—has been in business for 40 years. Founded by husband-and-wife business partners Michael and Marian Ilitch in Garden City, Michigan, the original restaurant served a variety of food items from spaghetti to french fries to fried chicken as well as pizza. But pizza was the most popular product, and the Ilitches sold nearly 300 in their first week as restauranteurs. With their low-priced, flavorful pizzas selling about as fast as they could make them, the Ilitches soon realized they had a winner. The first Little Caesars franchise store, serving mostly pizza, was opened in the Detroit area in 1962.

The recipe the Ilitches used in the 1950s is the same one used today, though the pizza has varied by size, crust type, and toppings. Little Caesars has always used natural ingredients, eschewing synthetics such as manufactured cheese products and artificial flavorings. In the years since Little Caesars was established, many competitors have emerged, including small independent pizzerias as well as chains like Pizza Hut, Shakey's, Domino's, and latecomer Papa John's, which took the industry by storm in the early 1990s.

Though like Pizza Hut the company began as a sit-down establishment and later added delivery services, Little Caesars went to carry-out only in 1971, the same year the two-for-one program was initiated. The now-famous "Pizza! Pizza! Two Great Pizzas! One Low Price!" slogan became a permanent part of Little Caesars' marketing campaigns in 1975. Two years later, the company added drive-through windows, and in two more years it installed a conveyor oven to increase its capacity. Although technological advances continued to change certain elements in the pizza-selling and delivery business, value and taste had remained Little Caesars' claim to fame—until a series of catchy and undoubtedly original television ads came along.

By the time Little Caesars hired Saatchi & Saatchi's Cliff Freeman & Partners in 1986, there were 1,000 company franchises across the nation, and the company was ready to devote some serious dollars (about 5 percent of its revenues, which had reached nearly $400 million) to becoming a serious competitor. Cliff Freeman & Partners was at the zenith of its popularity as well, having produced several award-winning advertising campaigns, including the popular "Where's the Beef?" television ads featuring Clara Peller for Wendy's. Freeman's first efforts for Little Caesars marked the company's television advertising debut, with seven 30-second spots filled with silly characters, unusual situations, and quirky humor that became Little Caesars' advertising trademark.

Given that the pizza carry-out and delivery industry had heated up considerably in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Little Caesars began experimenting with its service operations. The company went back to delivery services, again putting it head-to-head with Domino's. Though the national introduction of delivery services wasn't nearly as successful as hoped, the company left it up to the individual franchisees whether to continue the service or not. Yet a bigger hit came through a remarkable deal with Kmart in 1992, placing self-serve Little Caesars "Pizza Stations" in over 400 Kmart stores. The success of these units led to hundreds more, and though these locations were later renamed KCafe and began serving other food brands, Little Caesars pizza was still the mainstay of the menu, and the association with the discounter provided an excellent promotional venue.

The introduction of the Giant Caesar was technically nothing new, as larger-sized pizzas—some up to 24 inches—had been offered by Pizza Hut, Domino's, and Little Caesars as well as by independents. Size, however, had been scaled down across the board when two-for-one deals became the norm in the 1980s. Additionally, bigger pizzas were not always cost-effective as they required larger pans and more ingredients, took up greater oven space, and required special packaging.


Little Caesars' advertising has generally targeted families and adults from 18 to 49 years of age. The Giant Caesar and its corresponding Grand Canyon spots were aimed especially at families with several mouths to feed, as the Giant would satisfy the needs of the average-sized family (four to six members). The product was also a potential success with college students with their traditionally large appetites and tight budgets.

In addition to the age range of its customers, Little Caesars always targeted those with a slightly offbeat sense of humor, those who would find its commercials—with zany situations and often absurd-looking characters uttering equally absurd lines—worth a good guffaw. Both audiences and the advertising industry came to expect much from the company, which was both a blessing and a burden as it became necessary for Cliff Freeman & Partners to continually top itself.


Little Caesars' competition grew exponentially as geographic areas were saturated with a wide range of fast food restaurants, including a variety of pizza producers. Though the company's sales outpaced industry growth by 24 percent in the early part of the 1990s, the middle and later years of the decade were not as rosy; Pizza Hut and Domino's hit their strides and were better at steering customers away from Little Caesars. Convenience often seemed to play a greater role than taste or price in the fast food war. Little Caesars hoped customers would return not only because its products were cheap and convenient, but also because they were better tasting than those of its two primary rivals. Additionally, the company hoped its unusual, funny ads would help consumers remember the Little Caesars brand.

Pizza Hut was clearly a formidable competitor primarily because of its size (over 7,200 restaurants) and available capital. A former subsidiary of PepsiCo, Pizza Hut had spun off in 1997 but still had considerable clout, especially after introducing delivery service. Domino's, on the other hand, with about 5,400 outlets nationwide, was immensely popular with the college crowd. Yet Domino's wanted to capture the family market, too, focusing on busy working Moms too harried to fix a sit-down meal every day.

Little Caesars' earlier initiative to provide two pizzas for the price of one made competitors sit up and take notice and forced both Pizza Hut and Domino's to offer their own interpretation of this deal. While they did not offer two-for-one deals, each did offer a second pizza for a cut-rate price. Then came Papa John's, which made the fight for market share even more fierce, and though the fast food industry as a whole was growing, it was overcrowded.


Little Caesars had dubbed itself the "value king of the pizza industry," and the Giant Caesar was meant to demonstrate the indisputable truth of this statement. According to Sue Sherbow, Little Caesars' vice president of Corporate Communications, many people believed "bigger is better, so we developed our Giant Caesar to satisfy people's appetites and purchasing trends." In marketing the Giant Caesar, the pizza was not only significantly bigger but somewhat different than Little Caesars' other pizzas. It was considered more "New York"-styled, with a more pronounced or rolled-over crust, and it looked more "homemade" than mass produced. The pizza had to capitalize on its most important asset—value—during a slowdown in the $25 billion pizza market. To achieve this goal, Cliff Freeman & Partners came up with the Grand Canyon campaign, illustrating just what was "big" and what was not.

Another hallmark of Little Caesars' marketing was to promote fun; the company did not take itself too seriously and wanted its products and advertising to reflect people enjoying themselves. Some of its previous ad campaigns by Cliff Freeman & Partners clearly promoted this creed, like the well-known Conga Line (featuring dancing poodles and humans) or the Delivery training sequence (would-be delivery drivers being put through a rigorous program). These commercials had been immensely popular and not only earned awards and citations but plenty of brand recognition. Although Pizza Hut had tried a mega-pizza called "Big Foot" and Domino's had created the "Dominator" (both were short-lived), and with Papa John's International putting even more pressure on the three major pizza chains, Little Caesars really needed a winner—in terms of product and sales, as well as effective advertising. As Anthony Vagnoni, an Advertising Age editor, commented to USA Today in a July 1997 article regarding Little Caesars, "Anything less than a belly laugh isn't good enough." Vagnoni also stated that Little Caesars' advertising was consistently well done and was "still far superior to ads … for other pizza products."


The pizza wars between Pizza Hut, Domino's, and Little Caesars are legendary and have sparked fierce competition within the industry. Competitors, both large and small, have tried to steal customers by experimenting with their pizzas' size (up to 36 inches for Little Caesars' Pizza by the Foot), shape (round, square, rectangular, and football shaped, the latter courtesy of Little Caesars), height (for example, the Triple-decker by Pizza Hut, which was a disaster), crust (cracker thin, cheese stuffed, pan, hand tossed, spice brushed, and double dough), toppings (from three-inch pieces of pepperoni from Little Caesars to rose petals, egg, peanut butter, squash, rattlesnake, ostrich, buffalo, gator, tuna, chocolate chips, and jelly beans in some pizza joints), and cheese (whole-milk, skim-milk, and artificial mozzarella, as well as cheddar, goat cheese, feta, and others types of cheese).

Yet lower sales and an $8 million shortfall when a quarter of its franchisees were late on their national ad fund payments in 1997 (according to Competitive Media Reporting) caused Little Caesars not only to cut back significantly on marketing dollars but to be cautious with the dollars that were spent. In addition to its advertising support, Little Caesars was busy trying a myriad of new promotional ventures, including opening pizza kiosks in Holiday Inn's busiest hotels near Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida; test-marketing the use of American Express cards in some of its Utah outlets; and offering slices at 39 cents each to celebrate its 39th anniversary.


While the "Grand Canyon" campaign was clearly a success with consumers and the advertising industry, most viewers felt it was not as good as previous Little Caesars campaigns. The ads did propel sales, and the television and radio spots won 10 major awards, including both national and regional Addys, an Andy citation for best national campaign, and two Clios (a silver in the retail foods category and a bronze in the national campaign segment), all in 1997. Yet the industry's slump had weakened Little Caesars, resulting in rather flat sales for 1995, 1996, and 1997. Total or systemwide sales had hit $2 billion in 1994 and fallen to about $1.8 billion for the next three years.

Despite its many successes with Cliff Freeman & Partners, including the Grand Canyon spot, Little Caesars put the estimated $40 million account up for review in early 1998. The move prompted Freeman to resign and left several other agencies—including Bozell Worldwide; Grey, New York (who had previously pitched for Domino's); and the Minnesota-based Fallon McElligott—vying for the work. Though Cliff Freeman himself said it was time to move on—since he and Little Caesars' management no longer saw eye-to-eye on marketing strategy—he was quoted in a Brandweek article in February 1998 as saying, "They put us on the map and vice versa."

While it was not known what the next generation of Little Caesars promotions might be, consumers had come to expect a certain type of ad from this company. Given that Little Caesars had been voted the "Best Pizza Value in America" by Restaurants & Institutions magazine for 11 consecutive years, it seemed unlikely that their ads or their pizza would change much in the near future, despite any temporary difficulties. As for the Giant Caesar, although it was discontinued, Little Caesars increased the size of all its pizzas in response to positive reactions to the Giant Caesar.


"American Express Card Now Welcome at Utah Little Caesars Locations." PR Newswire, March 13, 1998.

Frank, Robert. "Marketing & Media: Building a Better Pie—Pizza Hut Is Topping Rivals with Cheese…." Wall Street Journal, January 18, 1996.

Howard, Theresa. "Kmart Corp.: Attention Shoppers—Retail Giant Hails 'Caesars' as a Big Guy." Nation's Restaurant News, January 1998.

―――――――. "Pizza's 'Big Three' Hold the Gimmicks, Serve Simplicity." Nation's Restaurant News, January 13, 1997.

"Little Caesars Celebrates 39 Years in Business with 39-Cent Slices of Pizza." Bison Franchise News, May 6, 1998.

"Little Caesars Named Best Pizza Value in America by Consumer Survey." Bison Franchise News, March 26, 1998.

"Pepperoni the Size of Ferris Wheels." Advertising Age's Creativity, September 1, 1996.

Pittinger, Heather. "Popular and Profitable." Hotel & Motel Management, May 6, 1996.

"Pizza! Pizza!." Adweek, August 19, 1996.

"Pizzeria Rolls Out Extra-Large Pie." Tampa Tribune, August 14, 1996.

Rubenstein, Ed. "Size Matters in New Campaigns Set to Attack the Competition." Nation's Restaurant News, September 22, 1997.

                                Taryn Benbow-Pfalzgraf



Consumers know Little Caesar Enterprises, Inc. for its absurd, funny commercials created by Cliff Freeman & Partners, including the very popular and award-winning "Safety Video" campaign. Rolled out near the end of 1996 to introduce its new Pizza by the Foot, the Little Caesars campaign not only elicited laughs from audiences but once again proved humor in advertising translated into dollars and sense.

With more than 4,800 Little Caesars outlets throughout the United States and Canada, the Dominican Republic, Guam, Honduras, Korea, Puerto Rico, and the Czech and Slovak Republics, the company was selling more than four million pizzas per week by 1998. Say "Pizza! Pizza!" and everyone thinks Little Caesars, just as consumers and the advertising industry alike had come to expect the ribald humor and bizarre antics in the company's commercials from the mid-1980s into the late 1990s.

Cliff Freeman & Partners' "Safety Video" campaign, like its predecessors, was not heavy-handed salesmanship, but goofy situational comedy. This time, the comedy resulted from the selling and buying of Little Caesars' new Pizza by the Foot, a three-foot-long rectangular pizza sold in a specially designed box along with a complimentary order of eight Italian bread sticks. The campaign's television spot, focusing on "safety" instructions for handling this unusual product, began with a video shown to customers by a Little Caesars employee and manager. The video was simple and straight forward, explaining the possible hazards of mishandling this potentially "dangerous" pizza and how to "observe a safe turning radius." Ludicrously loopy, the customer in the commercial ignored the video, and mayhem resulted: the television monitor crashed to the floor, glass was shattered in the pizza outlet's doors, a customer approaching the door was decked, a passing bicyclist was whacked by the box, and so on. The Little Caesars manager intoned, "I don't think he was paying attention."


Little Caesars' rollout of Pizza by the Foot was its latest example of giving consumers more for their hard-earned bucks. As an originator of selling two pizzas for the price of one back in the 1970s, Little Caesars introduced Pizza by the Foot close on the heels of another bigger-is-better product, the Giant Caesar. The Giant Caesar had been introduced in August 1996, a mere month and a half before Pizza by the Foot debuted. Both products were meant to assure customers that Little Caesars was always willing to give them more pizza for every dollar and that the company would keep finding new ways to do so. Launching two outsized products in succession was part of a marketing drive to keep "value" synonymous with the company's name and products. Pizza by the Foot further emphasized value by giving customers a free order of Little Caesars' latest garnish, the new Italian Bread (fresh-baked bread sticks lightly brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with an Italian blend of spices).

Little Caesars was no novice in the fast food industry, having been around for four decades. Founders Michael and Marian Ilitch had begun their trade in Garden City, Michigan, with a full-service restaurant serving such staples as fried chicken, pasta dishes, and pizza. After selling almost 300 pizzas in their first week, the Ilitches decided to open another restaurant that concentrated on low-priced pizza; the first Little Caesars franchise store opened in the suburbs of Detroit in 1962.

Throughout the rest of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, Little Caesars grew throughout the Midwest. The "Pizza! Pizza! Two Great Pizzas! One Low Price!" marketing concept was initiated in 1971, the same year the company stopped delivery in favor of carryout only. Over the next decade, Little Caesars added drive-through windows, installed conveyor ovens, and broadened its menu. When it hired Cliff Freeman & Partners in 1986, Little Caesars had 1,000 outlets across the nation and was prepared to spend about 5 percent of its annual revenues (or $20 million that year) on advertising. Cliff Freeman & Partners was well respected in the ad business, having produced a number of successful and award-winning campaigns like Wendy's "Where's the Beef?" and Almond Joy's "Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut." The partnership turned the increasingly well-known pizza chain into a media giant with a series of quirky 30-second commercials, featuring odd vignettes with even odder characters.

Because the pizza carryout and delivery industry had heated up considerably in the late 1980s and early 1990s (because of the falling price of high-quality cheese), Little Caesars resumed delivery services, but was not pleased with the results. The company therefore returned to its mainstay—value—by rolling out the Giant Caesar and Pizza by the Foot in quick succession. The only downside to producing Pizza by the Foot was its special packaging; yet the unique, handled rectangular box seemed to provide almost as much fun as the pizza inside. The "Safety Video" commercial was launched during prime-time family-oriented television programming and sports events on October 28, 1996. Lasting 30 seconds (subsequent versions also ran at both 20 and 15 seconds), the television commercial was accompanied by print advertising and three separate radio spots.


Throughout its history, Little Caesars aimed its marketing at families and adults from 18 to 49 years of age. Both Pizza by the Foot and the Giant Caesar were created for college students, parties, and averaged-sized families. Pizza by the Foot was especially accommodating, because each one-foot section could have a different topping—thereby pleasing everyone. Lastly, the meal came with free Italian bread and was sold for the low price of $10.99. Pizza by the Foot, Little Caesars made clear, was the perfect crowd-pleaser for anyone on a budget.

In addition to appealing to customers in a particular age group and income range, Little Caesars consistently targeted folks with a screwball sense of humor, those who would get a good belly laugh from Cliff Freeman & Partners' ads. Consumers and the advertising industry not only consistently rated Little Caesars ads as effective and funny but also came to expect those involved to top themselves with ever more outrageous, bizarre campaigns.


When Little Caesars developed a new product and gave Cliff Freeman & Partners the necessary information, a finished ad campaign was usually ready within two months. In the mid- and late 1990s, this was especially crucial due to fierce competition. Little Caesars had knocked Domino's off its second-tier spot in the early 1990s, when the latter suffered losses of $68 million in 1991 and $55 million in 1992. In 1994 and 1995, however, Domino's came back with a vengeance (in part because of the defection of a 10-year Little Caesars executive who joined Domino's) just as Little Caesars started experiencing its own problems. Then came Papa John's International, challenging not only Little Caesars but Domino's and Pizza Hut as well. In 1996, when Little Caesars' market share declined from 14.5 to 13.4 percent and sales fell by nearly 8.1 percent, Papa John's had excellent same-store sales (up 10 percent) and a phenomenal unit growth of 32.1 percent for the year (all figures according to Nation's Restaurant News).

On top of stiff competition came an industry slowdown, which seemed to hurt Little Caesars more than Pizza Hut, Domino's, or Papa John's. In this flooded marketplace, where convenience and availability often counted for more than taste and price, Little Caesars, with its 4,800 franchises, needed more than ever to imprint its brand on the consumer's mind. To compete with Pizza Hut's 7,200-plus restaurants, as well as 5,400 from Domino's and another 1,500 or so from Papa John's, Little Caesars had to differentiate itself from the pack. The company chose to entice them with silly and irreverent advertising, and hoped to keep them with variety and exceptional value.


Larger pizzas for less money was certainly nothing new, especially because Little Caesars had used that strategy with the Giant Caesar a few months earlier. Pizza by the Foot had to make its mark in a different way. Back in 1993, Pizza Hut had introduced Big Foot pizza, which was two square feet of pizza cut into 21 slices, and it did not make much more than an immediate and short-lived splash. For its part, Domino's debuted the Dominator, which was 30 inches long, and a new garnish called Twisty Bread, almost a carbon copy of Little Caesar's Crazy Bread. At the time, Little Caesars was offering its Big! Big! pizza, which was two feet long and plugged by George Burns in television spots.

Three years later, at the end of 1996, Little Caesars was not only topping the competition, but also itself, with Pizza by the Foot. It was bigger than Domino's largest pizza by half a square foot and Pizza Hut's by a whole square foot and came with a different topping on each one-foot section. With free Italian bread sticks the deal was touted as a great value. But the real kicker was the unique carrying case; by placing the emphasis on the specially designed box and secondarily on the pizza, consumers were drawn to try it at least once—and this was the focus of a new $10 million ad campaign by Cliff Freeman & Partners.

The "Safety Video" television commercial came in three versions, with the original at 30 seconds and the other two at 20 and 15 seconds each. To accompany the television spot, Cliff Freeman & Partners produced three equally creative radio spots and print advertising in newspapers and direct mailers. The three radio spots, called "Family Dinner," "Megaphone," and "Timmy," were as off-the-wall as the "Safety Video" commercial, with the first running in both 60- and 30-second versions and the other two running at 30 seconds each. "Family Dinner" featured a family attempting to converse while eating Pizza by the Foot; their conversations were stymied by the vast distance they had to put between them to accommodate the gigantic pizza. The "Megaphone" radio spot took the same premise one step further by having the family use a megaphone to speak to each other. The "Timmy" spot featured a father and son (Timmy) dining on Pizza by the Foot, with the son tossing a slice of pepperoni from his end of the pizza all the way to his dad, who was duly impressed by his throwing skills.


Little Caesars has long been known by its advertising, and its "Pizza! Pizza!" tag line, coined in the 1970s, became recognized around the world. Not only did the "Pizza! Pizza!" motto become synonymous with the Little Caesars franchise, but it also stood for the "double" value in receiving two pies for the price of one. Unfortunately for Little Caesars, one of its major competitors Canada is a chain called Pizza Pizza—a higher-ranked rival that received a boost every time Little Caesars advertised using its "Pizza! Pizza!" slogan.

The nuts and bolts of the Pizza by the Foot campaign were simple—touting the enormous size and value of this new product through effective, original, and quirky advertising. Cliff Freeman & Partners' use of the Pizza by the Foot box was a stroke of genius. Even though the old directives of value and "more pizza for your money" were in the commercial, concentrating on the box opened a new world of "safety" gags. Given most people's intolerance for instructional media (from putting together a bicycle to cooking in the microwave) and the ridiculous lengths to which some companies and manufacturers go to instruct customers on safety, portraying a customer who pays little or no attention to the Safety Video was a universal jab at consumers and companies alike, making the resulting havoc all the more credible and hilarious.

Because Little Caesars considered itself the "value king of the pizza industry," bringing out a parade of bigger-is-better pizzas like the Big! Big!, the Giant Caesar, and Pizza by the Foot was supposed to propel the company's brand more decisively in the $25-billion pizza market. As company spokesperson Sue Sherbow commented in a January 1997 article in Nation's Restaurant News, "Little Caesars has always tried to emphasize value; that's our niche—and we will continue to look at innovation, value and fun." The last word of this statement, "fun," was a hallmark of Little Caesars ads—if the ads were fun and funny, consumers were entertained and apt to remember them longer.


Pizza by the Foot fared well after its October 1996 debut. The item remained an optional menu item into 1998, and the Italian Breads pawned a sibling called Italian Cheese Bread. In its never-ending quest to provide more for less, Little Caesars went on to develop the Unlimited Pizza, offering any sized pizza and any topping for the low price of $6.99, and later bumping up the size of all its pizzas by four inches each.

Cliff Freeman & Partners' "Safety Video" television campaign was popular with both consumers and the advertising industry. The campaign won a slew of awards—in this sense reminiscent of previous Little Caesars winners like the "Conga Line" and "Cheeser! Cheeser!" campaigns—and was better received than the Giant Caesar's "Grand Canyon" commercials. "Safety Video" was voted Best TV Single by Adweek, garnered eight Addys (overall, national, and regional), two Andys, won Ad Age's Best of TV award, claimed two Clios (a silver in the retail foods category and a bronze in the national campaign segment), and was given the Silver Pencil from the One Show awards, all in 1997. The "Family Dinner" and "Megaphone" radio spots also won several awards, including Clio certificates, a Mercury award, and the Communication Arts' Radio Single award. Yet despite kudos from the advertising industry, Little Caesars was in a slump, with stagnant sales of about $1.8 billion for 1995, 1996, and 1997, after hitting over $2 billion in 1994 for systemwide sales.

Fraught with tepid sales, a shortfall in its national advertising fund, the layoff of 1 percent of its corporate workforce, and an oversaturated market, Little Caesars put its estimated $40 million advertising account up for review in January 1998. Cliff Freeman & Partners' response was to resign the account, stating that their objectives no longer matched those of Little Caesars. The Detroit office of Bozell Worldwide eventually won the account, and the advertising industry waited to see what direction Bozell and Little Caesars would take to shore up market share and renew the latter's brand in the minds of consumers.


Child, Charles. "Domino's Preparing to Step Up Pizza War." Crain's Detroit Business, May 31, 1993.

Frank, Robert. "Marketing and Media: Building a Better Pie—Pizza Hut Is Topping Rivals with Cheese…." Wall Street Journal, January 18, 1996.

Halliday, Jean. "Variety Is the Spice of Life in Domino's Pizza-War Plan." Crain's Detroit Business, August 2, 1993.

Howard, Theresa. "Pizza's 'Big Three' Hold the Gimmicks, Serve Simplicity." Nation's Restaurant News, January 13, 1997.

Lutton, Christine. "Sizing Up the Pies When It Comes to Monster Pizzas, Big Does Not Mean Better, Our Tasters Say." Virginian-Pilot/Ledger-Star (Norfolk), August 5, 1993.

Polong, Travis E. "Firms Spar for Bigger Slice of Pizza Market." San Antonio Business Journal, July 30, 1993.

Prewitt, Milford. "Pizza Chains Ditch Discounts in Back-to-Basics Bake-Off." Nation's Restaurant News, August 1, 1994.

Rubenstein, Ed. "Size Matters in New Campaigns Set to Attack the Competition." Nation's Restaurant News, September 22, 1997.

Walkup, Carolyn. "Little Caesar Cuts 27 Management Posts at Headquarters." Nation's Restaurant News, July 14, 1997.

Weigel, George. "Big's the Word in the Industry." Sunday Patriot-News (Harrisburg), August 1, 1993.

                                Taryn Benbow-Pfalzgraf



By the late 1990s the pizza market had become saturated, and Little Caesar Enterprises, Inc., a value-oriented player that had grown dramatically during the 1980s, saw its sales and market share flatten. The company decided to change its marketing strategy and early in 1998 hired Bozell Worldwide Inc., giving the agency the task of developing a new advertising campaign that would emphasize product quality in addition to value.

The Bozell "Talking Pizzas" campaign ran on television in the fall of 1998 and in direct-mail solicitations. In the two 30-second television spots two pizzas had a humorous conversation. The campaign was similar to previous efforts in that it offered a value-oriented promotion; major differences were that the ads used a gentler humor and emphasized product quality through the dialogue and close-up shots of the pizzas. The direct-mail advertising offered a money-back guarantee. The campaign was a marked change from the zany approach of the past and got a subdued reaction from critics and consumers.


Husband-and-wife team Mike and Marian Ilitch started their first restaurant in Garden City, Michigan in 1959. The restaurant served a variety of foods, including spaghetti and fried chicken, but pizza was clearly the most popular item. The Ilitches sold almost 300 pizzas during the first week of business. They eventually decided to make low-cost pizza the main item on their menu and opened the first Little Caesars franchise operation in Detroit in 1962. The small family pizza chain grew dramatically. Although it started out as primarily a sit-down restaurant, delivery services were later added. In 1971 Little Caesars changed to a carry-out only business and began offering two-for-one pizza deals. In the same year the slogan "Pizza! Pizza! Two Great Pizzas! One Low Price!" was introduced.

By the 1980s Little Caesars' business was booming, and in 1986 the company hired Cliff Freeman & Partners, known for its use of goofy humor in advertising, as its agency. The pairing resulted in award-winning ads and was widely regarded to have worked to the benefit of both parties. For more than a decade Little Caesars' advertising was known for its offbeat humor based on wacky sight gags and an animated toga-clad Roman who proclaimed "Pizza! Pizza!" and other double tag lines such as "Pan! Pan!" and "Big! Big!" at the end of each commercial. The advertising almost always revolved around the theme of getting more for the money at Little Caesars. "Value is our niche and emphasis and it's very valid for us," said Little Caesars spokesperson Sue Sherbow in January 1998. "It's how we expect to be doing business for years to come."

According to Crain's Detroit Business, by the late 1990s Little Caesars' sales had "stagnated" and its market share flattened. Evelyne Slomon, editor of Pizza Today, reported that the company was "feeling the financial pinch" from its unprofitable two-for-one specials. "I don't expect the company to go out of business, but their sales are going down, and they need to re-group," she said. The company cut its advertising spending by 22.8 percent in 1996 and overhauled its management. The Detroit Free Press reported in October 1998 that the company had downsized its staff twice in less than 14 months.

The company also had a history of bumpy relationships with its franchisees. In 1993 one group of franchisees sued the company in federal court, claiming that it had violated antitrust laws by overcharging them for supplies and not allowing them to deal with other suppliers. Franchisees reportedly worried about the company's financial situation and criticized its marketing approach as lacking in foresight, consistency, and effectiveness.

To make matters worse, Little Caesars was getting substantially less than rave reviews on quality. Brandweek reported in January 1998 that, regardless of value, "customers have to feel good about the pizza they get. And when it comes to taste, Little Caesars often loses. In its last pizza survey, Consumer Reports called Little Caesars offerings 'low in flavor, and the cheese can be so chewy it's almost rubbery.'" Bob Garfield, reviewer for Advertising Age, wrote in September 1998, "There's an old joke about a kvetching guest at a Catskills resort. Not only is the food terrible, he complains, but the portions are too small. It's supposed to be ridiculous, but with such a consumer in mind the Little Caesars marketing strategy was born." Garfield went on to compare the pizza to "wet flannel, minus the flavor." Nonetheless, Little Caesars received 11 consecutive awards for "best pizza value" based on consumer surveys by Restaurants & Institutions magazine.

When the company decided to rethink its marketing strategy, it began a quiet review of its advertising. This prompted Freeman to resign the account in February 1998, and Bozell was hired two months later. With the new advertising agency came a new emphasis on product quality that the company hoped would give it an edge in an increasingly competitive pizza market.


Little Caesars had historically targeted families and adults in the 18-to-49-year age bracket. The value message was geared toward those who were conscious of budgets, including families with children and college students. The new campaign represented a shift in focus from value alone to one in which quality was also emphasized, although not to the exclusion of value. The campaign ran nationwide and featured two television spots that were shown during prime-time network and cable shows and during some college football games.


Little Caesars ranked number three among the top four pizza chains. Pizza Hut, Inc., was number one, and Domino's Pizza, Inc., ranked second, with Papa John's International, Inc., in fourth place. Other, smaller players in the crowded pizza market included Sbarro, Italian Eatery, Round Table Pizza, ShowBiz Pizza Time, Inc.'s Chuck E. Cheese's, and Godfather's Pizza.

The pizza segment in general was stagnant in the late 1990s. Brandweek reported that pizza chain sales went up only a half of 1 percent in 1996, compared to the rise in total fast-food sales of 5.6 percent in the same period. During this time other segments fared significantly better than pizza, with burger sales rising 4 percent, chicken sales 10.5 percent, and sales of sandwich chains 4.8 percent. Nation's Restaurant News reported in September 1998, however, that Papa John's and Domino's had increased their market shares while Little Caesars' sales had lagged during the previous few years. The top three chains were particularly threatened by Papa John's, which, despite its relatively small size, had gained ground on its rivals through rapid nationwide expansion and growth in sales.

Large pizza chains, which historically had tried to boost sales with new product promotions, started to emphasize product quality, improve operations, and renovate units to revive business. They continued, however, to rely to some degree on promotions, with Pizza Hut adding new types of pizza to its menu, Domino's coming out with two new flavored crusts, and Little Caesars launching its "Big! Big!" campaign. Unlike its rivals, the up-and-coming Papa John's focused more on quality than on menu expansion. Chris Sternberg, Papa John's vice president of communications, said, "We continue to focus on our better-ingredients strategy. There are temptations to do line extensions and new-product rollouts, but we really believe that staying focused on doing one product better than anyone else helps us to continue to grow."


In the Bozell campaign, which first aired on September 2, 1998, the action in the two 30-second television spots—"Mutual Admiration" and "Home Movie"—revolved around two talking pizzas. As before, the television commercials were humorous, but there was more emphasis on the quality of the pizza. They put the spotlight on the product rather than on sight gags. Each commercial ended with the traditional "Pizza! Pizza!" tag line. Observers noted that the humor was more subdued than in the zany approach of Freeman. Gary Topolewski, Bozell's executive vice president and chief creative officer, said that the primary goal of the television commercials was "putting in the personality that is exclusively Little Caesars … It's not belly laughs; it's whimsical and a wink of the eye. And it's palatable, as opposed to talking starkly about the ingredients." Topolewski went on to observe, "Humor is a tough nut to crack to really make sure it works. You don't want the humor to overshadow the quality message."

In "Mutual Admiration" the two pizzas traded profuse compliments in exaggerated New York accents about the quality of each other's toppings. The first pizza said, "Look at you! You are lookin' good!" The second pizza replied, "Me? No my friend. It is YOU that is looking good … look at all those toppings!" The first pizza came back with "My toppings! Forget about it!" The conversation continued in this vein, with interjections such as "You're killin' me" and "Oh, stop it" thrown in. Pizza was featured in almost every shot in the commercial, and the conversation was filmed with quick side-to-side camera movements.


According to Nation's Restaurant News, in addition to promoting pizza quality, Little Caesars decided in 1998 to renovate its stores. At the annual convention of franchisees in early May, the company debuted a new prototype unit with higher ceilings, brighter colors and lighting, new countertops, and an expanded self-service drink station. "It incorporates our value and quality into the look of our stores, and it is a very family-friendly image that attracts customers," said Sue Sherbow, spokesperson for Little Caesars. She did not elaborate on the costs of the renovations but said that franchisees were not required to adopt the new design.

Bob Angona was one of the franchisees who liked the prototype. When Angona lost the lease on one of his two units, he relocated the store and used the new decor. While he would not discuss the cost, he said that sales were up 15 to 28 percent over the same period in the previous year. He attributed the increase to both the new design and the new location.

Other franchisees were concerned that the prototype had not been thoroughly tested and that the company might not stick with it. According to Nation's Restaurant News, the company had previously introduced unit models that did not pan out. Some franchisees said that the company should focus more on product quality than on a new store design.

"Home Movie" showed two pizzas reminiscing about their "childhood" while they watched a "home movie," which, in this case, was a training film for Little Caesars employees on how to make pizzas. One pizza said, "Oh, look at that little ball of dough. Is that you?" The other responded, "You've got a very good eye. That is me." Growing wistful as they saw themselves in their "youth," they mused about how they had "grown up so fast." When one pizza asked if the other was crying, the second replied, "No, it's the onion."

In a company press release Topolewski said, "Pairing light-hearted, entertaining copy, with virtually 30-seconds of product, the ads clearly make the pizza the focal point and reinforces the quality product. Additionally, using the talking pizzas throughout all communications will create a synergistic message to consumers that Little Caesars is committed to maintaining its value and quality position in the marketplace."

Although the emphasis was on quality, the new commercials continued to offer value in a promotion of two 12-inch pizzas with up to three toppings for $10.99. Direct-mail advertising supported the television campaign by offering a money-back guarantee with the new slogan "If it's not right, we'll take the bite!" The direct-mail advertising focused on the pizza's ingredients and the fact that the company still used its "authentic 1959 recipe." The money-back guarantee was not part of the television spots according to company spokesperson Sherbow because it was feared that it would obscure the message on product quality.


According to company vice chairman Denise Ilitch, Little Caesars' sales rose during September and October of 1998. In November, however, USA Today described consumer response to the "Talking Pizzas" campaign as "tepid." According to an Ad Track poll, only 12 percent said that they liked the campaign "a lot," compared with an Ad Track average of 21 percent. Fifteen percent of men liked the ads, compared with 9 percent of women, and no one liked it as much as the previous year's campaign. According to the poll, 24 percent of consumers liked the Freeman commercials featuring sight gags about product size. More people thought that the Freeman ads were likeable rather than effective, however. The Bozell commercials, on the other hand, produced the opposite reaction, with 13 percent of consumers stating that they thought the ads were effective.

Reaction from advertising industry critics to the new campaign was not overwhelmingly favorable. Denise Gellene wrote in the Los Angeles Times that making the pizzas so prominent in the advertising "might be a mistake. The pizzas … look fairly ordinary, raising questions about what makes Little Caesars special." Garfield of Advertising Age disagreed with the company's description of the dialogue in "Mutual Admiration" as "clever banter," comparing it instead to "cheesy imitations of Frank and Louie, right up to the New Yawk accent." Garfield was kinder to "Home Movie," calling the dialogue "more charming and witty … but still not exactly laugh-out-loud delightful." While he acknowledged that the ads did "make the pizzas look tempting," Garfield cautioned that "now that Little Caesars has opened the quality issue, it had better be prepared to deal with the consequences if the reality in the box doesn't match the pictures on the tube."


When VF Corporation, makers of such apparel brands as Lee and Wrangler, found that there was a communications gap between the home office and company employees, it put some dough into solving the problem—pizza dough, that is.

Workforce reported in December 1998 that, according to research done the previous year, employees lacked knowledge of the VF brands, the role of the parent company, and the extent of its operations. In response VF decided to have 15,000 Little Caesars pizzas delivered on the same day to 40,000 employees at 185 plants and offices around the United States.

For trivia buffs: making the pizzas required some five tons of tomatoes, six tons of flour, and enough cheese to fill 34 bathtubs. It took the equivalent of 2,000 hours, or 83 days, to cook the pizzas. If the pepperoni from the pizzas were laid end to end, it would have traversed the length of 125 football fields. The pizzas placed together on the ground would have covered half an acre.

While Workforce did not report how much the national pizza party cost, the magazine described it as "a drop in the bucket when you consider VF's 1997 sales totaled $5.2 billion."


Benezra, Karen. "Caesars' Fall." Brandweek, January 26, 1998, pp. 21-25.

――――――. "Pizza Parting." Brandweek, February 23, 1998, p. 1.

Cebrzynski, Gregg. "Pizza, Pizza: Little Caesar Ad Campaign Focuses on Product." Nation's Restaurant News, September 14, 1998.

Garfield, Bob. "Caesars' Pizza Patter Doesn't Really Cut It." Advertising Age, September 7, 1998.

Gazdik, Tanya. "Pizza Work to Fatten Bozell Staff." Adweek (Midwest Edition), April 6, 1998, p. 6.

Gellene, Denise. "Advertising & Marketing Ad Reviews." Los Angeles Times (Home Edition), September 17, 1998, p. D6.

Kosdrosky, Terry. "Let's Talk Pizza: Quality Is New Caesar Pitch; Franchisees Wary." Crain's Detroit Business, September 21, 1998, p. 1.

"Little Caesars Ads Aim for Pizza Lust." USA Today, November 16, 1998.

Parpis, Eleftheria. "Defend This?" Adweek (Eastern Edition), February 23, 1998, p. 3.

Petrecca, Laura, and Louise Kramer. "Little Caesars Calls Review; Freeman Out." Advertising Age, February 23, 1998, p. 1.

Teegardin, Carol. "Little Caesar's Tries to Reverse Sliding Pizza Sales." Detroit Free Press, October 16, 1998.

Zuber, Amy. "Pizza Hut-vs.-Papa John's Battle Signals Intensifying War among Segment Leaders." Nation's Restaurant News, June 22, 1998, p. 114.

                                       Debbi Mack