Pizza Hut Takes a Bite Out of Yahoo! Front Page

Yahoo continues its efforts to prove its worth as a branding medium to national advertisers, striking a rich media marketing deal with restaurant chain Pizza Hut.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based portal, which has previously launched major campaigns for Pepsi, Ford Motor Co. and Compaq, will reprise those efforts in placing a “takeover” ad on its front page.

Terms were not disclosed.

The Flash-based rich media ad shows a pizza-laden pizza peel (the wooden “paddle” used to lift pizzas in and out of an oven) popping out of the middle of the Yahoo home page. Pepperonis rain down on the pizza, which then zooms across the screen to land in an ad unit on the right-hand side of the page, in Yahoo’s Marketplace area.

Clicking on the ad’s “Click for recipes” icon sparks a Flash slideshow of different version of the pizza — Ultimate Cheese Lover’s, Ultimate Meat Lover’s, Ultimate Pepperoni Lover’s and Ultimate Veggie Lover’s — and a special promotional price, $8.99 for a medium pie.

Clicking again on the ad takes users to a special sub-site, PH899.com, where they can get more information about the pizzas, find a local Pizza Hut, and play Pizza Hut-branded games. The PH899.com site also features downloadable coupons, and a contest to win free pizza for a year (which requires that users submit their information to the site).

Yahoo also plans to promote Pizza Hut across its network, with ads running on Yahoo Mail, My Yahoo, Yahoo Calendar, and Yahoo Sports.

The online campaign was conceived and developed by an integrated team consisting of Yahoo, Pizza Hut, and The Digital Edge, the interactive agency for Pizza Hut.

For Pizza Hut, the effort ties into its offline campaign, “$8.99 Unbeatable Pizzas, Unbelievable Prices,” which is running in national television spots.

Yahoo is continuing to leverage the power of the Yahoo home page, one of the most visited destinations on the Web, to create innovative programs in collaboration with the company’s leading advertisers. The company is working with major brands to develop creative, specially-customized marketing programs that reach its broad global audience.

But with special games and offers just for Web users, the restaurant chain — a subsidiary of Tricon Global Restaurants, and the world’s largest pizza chain — is seeking to woo tech-savvy potential diners, who, at least according to the stereotype, are pizza fanatics. The effort represents a move to segment its potential customer base using the Web, and delivering tailored offers and ads accordingly.

“Pizza Hut is known for innovation, and we think this clever, engaging and interactive online advertising campaign has all the ingredients to get consumers’ attention,” said Randy Gier, who is the chain’s chief marketing officer. “Pizza eaters are a broad group, and it’s important to reach them in the areas relevant to their lives. The Internet is helping us do that.”

That’s precisely the way that Yahoo hopes other major offline advertisers will think. As revenue from dot-coms began declining in mid-to-late 2000, the portal and other Web publishers began pitching their sites to traditional brands as a way to better interact with their target audiences.

But winning a slice of the big advertisers’ media budgets requires competing with traditional channels like print, television and radio. And until recently, the Web advertising industry has fallen short in its efforts to convince major clients that it, too, can function as a serious branding medium.

With deals like the new agreement with national, multi-media advertisers like Pizza Hut, however, that might be changing.

“Through programs like this, Yahoo has the ability to market Pizza Hut’s leading brand to the world’s largest global Internet audience in a unique and innovative way,” said Wenda Harris Millard, Yahoo’s newly appointed chief advertising sales officer.

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