Pizza Pizza: Blazing into Late Night


Campaign Summary

Pizza Pizza discovered a critical insight: searches for other QSR brands such as McDonald's spike just after Pizza Pizza and Domino's restaurants have closed at 2:00 a.m.. The brand set out to target the late-night pizza-hungry crowd, pushing late-night online advertising and creating an attractive promotional offer to target this new audience. Its campaign not only increased sales, but also stole market share from its competitors Domino's and McDonald's, making Pizza Pizza the go-to favorite for the late-night, cannabis-friendly crowd in Canada.


Objective and Context:

Pizza Pizza sales had been declining for the past two years. With the quick service restaurant (QSR) category growth flat year-over-year, and third-party delivery services such as Uber Eats creating massive disruption, the brand needed to find a way to remain competitive and increase sales through a new promotion.

Merging intuition with Google Trends, a tool which analyzes the popularity of top search queries in Google Search across various regions and languages, it mined search behavior to understand how Canadians were ordering pizzas. The data revealed two distinct ordering spikes: dinnertime traffic (5:00–7:00 p.m.) and a second surge in late-night traffic (10:00 p.m.–1:00 a.m.). This pattern repeated daily, with the highest volumes observed on Friday and Saturday. Pizza Pizza had always had a late-night business, but never specifically targeted this segment. Its new data insight unlocked a new business opportunity.

Pizza Hut closes at 11:30 p.m., leaving it to compete with Domino's for the late-night pizza-hungry crowd. Data revealed that searches for other QSR brands such as McDonald's spike just after both pizza restaurants have closed at 2:00 a.m. A late-night push in online advertising meant stealing major market share from the competition by getting in front of customers first with a promotion they couldn't resist.

Target Audience:

A closer look at the data revealed strong correlating search patterns during that same late-night time period for marijuana. Targeting the late-night audience via a mobile search strategy by appealing to the cannabis crowd was Pizza Pizza's opportunity to capitalize on this ordering behavior and steal share of voice from other late-night QSRs.

Creative Strategy:

Its new, data-driven insight opened an entirely new avenue of target audiences for Pizza Pizza. Incorporating marijuana marketing into its previously squeaky-clean brand image was a bold move for the brand, but by tapping into a cultural trend with the recent legalization of cannabis in Canada, its new target represented a perfect avenue to launch new promotional offers.


Overall Campaign Execution:

Pizza Pizza leveraged on-point search ad copy such as "Blaze through the weekend" and "Toke about a Dope Deal," while also featuring a search ad with a 24-hour countdown clock to 4/20 to raise excitement. It layered in audiences with an affinity for dining out (lunch, supper, nightlife, live events) to cast a wider net.

Eighty-six percent of the campaign budget was spent on mobile. While it didn't have control of which device a user searched from, it knew that mobile was the largest priority, especially since it was a walk-in only deal and on-the-move users would be searching for the nearest Pizza Pizza location to take advantage of the deal. It also needed to be present specifically on mobile devices when the overall campaign took hold and users would be searching.

Mobile Execution:

Knowing that its late-night, cannabis-smoking crowd was predominantly mobile-first, Pizza Pizza decided to lead with a mobile-first search strategy. With everything optimized for mobile out of the gate, its strategy paid off:

  • 89 percent of traffic in the 4/20 campaigns was driven by mobile devices.
  • 89 percent of store visits were also driven by mobile devices, a core KPI. Compared to the account average, mobile devices only accounted for 59 percent of store visits, indicating that the 4/20 campaign was particularly effective in increasing store visits.
  • April 20 had the highest mobile click volume of all Saturdays year-to-date.

Results (including context, evaluation, and market impact)

This first-time promotion offer resulted in enormous gains: 13,000 orders, over a 30 percent increase in revenue from other promotional offers, and 1.2 earned media impressions.

Pizza Pizza expanded its mobile search strategy into a full mobile digital program that boosted its late-night share and delivered:

  • 5 percent increase in average order size
  • 63 percent improvement in return on ad spend (ROAS)
  • 41 percent decrease in cost per online order
  • 70 percent sales lift, helping Pizza Pizza hit its biggest sales in two years

Pizza Pizza's campaign increased sales and stole market share from its competitors Domino's and McDonald's, making Pizza Pizza the go-to favorite for the late-night, cannabis-friendly crowd in Canada. By leveraging its mobile-first search strategy, Pizza Pizza was able to maximize untapped revenue through its promotional offer.

Categories: Mobile Search, Promotion | Industries: Food & Beverage, Restaurants & Fast Food | Objectives: Mobile Search, Promotion | Awards: NA Gold Winner, NA Silver Winner, X Bronze Winner