Papa John’s New Ads Use ‘Voices’ of Employees, Franchisees


What’s the best way to get a discordant voice out of your head? Drown it out with lots of other voices that are in harmony.

That’s the approach Papa John’s is taking with its advertising in an attempt to finally close the ugliest chapter in the history of America’s No. 4 pizza chain: its very public, very bitter falling out with founder—and still biggest shareholder—John Schnatter.

Infamously, Schnatter was booted out of governance of Papa John’s earlier this year after several months of sliding pizza sales that coincided with public disenchantment with the founder’s outspokenness about national anthem protests in the National Football League, as well as a racial slur he used in media training that had been aimed at ultimately resuscitating his image.

In the new ads, Papa John’s features short clips from actual employees and franchisees who make the very clear point that the company consists of all of them and their efforts—not just the one guy who very much enjoyed being the face of his company in advertising and marketing, and then fell from grace. The 24 participants notably include people of all races.

In the “Voices of Papa John’s” spot, a Detroit franchisee says, “You’ve heard one voice of Papa John’s for a long time,” and each participant in his or her own way elaborates on how they all make up a company they’re still proud of. A companion Papa John’s microsite features stories from employees, Papa John’s diversity and inclusion plans and selected media coverage of the company over the past several months.

Even Papa John’s logo is getting a makeover that sends the  message of the chain’s deliberate attempt to disconnect itself from Schnatter in every way possible: The company filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office a new logo that removes the apostrophe, according to AdAge.

Of course, it will take a lot more than these initial efforts to turn Papa John’s fortunes upward, especially as competitors Domino’s, Pizza Hut and now No. 3-ranked Little Caesar’s haven’t exactly been sitting still as Papa John’s has battled its demon(s). The chain predicted a continuing year-over-year sales slide when August results come out, which will follow a 10.5% decline in North America same-store sales in July after they fell a more-than-anticipated 6.1% in the second quarter.