Thursday, December 11, 2008

Does Advertising on Social Media Work?

Here are the results from a Papa Johns campaign that ran last week:

Papa John's Test Drives Google Display Ad Campaign
Laurie Sullivan, Dec 09, 2008 07:45 AM
PapaJohns Google adsPapa John's took Google display ads for a test drive Friday. Preliminary numbers show that online weekend sales for the pizzamaker were up between 15% and 20% compared with a typical weekend. Awareness prompted mobile orders to jump, too.

The campaign grabbed the attention of consumers just before the weekend and encouraged them to order online. Running a large-scale, one-day Web campaign allowed Papa John's to reach large numbers of people as they browse the Web and social networks, while also tracking the effectiveness of people who sign up to get a pizza.

Friday--the night when most consumers order pizza--became the test bed for Papa John's to trial the performance of Google's display ad network. "You can gain efficiencies in one-day road blocks," said Bob Ford, Papa John's director of digital marketing. "If you cast a really wide net over a series of days it can become cost-prohibitive."

Papa John's used the Google Content Network to place display ads, rather than text ads more traditionally associated with Google advertisers. Ford said everyone knows the name Google--but do they know their inventory provides "massive exposure in a short period of time" on a "great display network that gets you a broad reach" into people sitting at computers or surfing on mobile Web browsers?

While the pizza industry has historically been best known for large TV spots and newspaper buys, Papa John's one-day display ad campaign across large segments of the Google Content Network boosted sales. The ads ran on MySpace,, and other entertainment, food, news, sports and game sites promoting a free medium-size cheese pizza to anyone registering to receive Papa John's emails.

Online order tickets are typically a little larger, Ford said--between 10% and 15% higher than phone orders. He attributes the uptick to consumers having an option to browse the full menu on the Web site. Papa John's also expects a rise in operational efficiencies from online orders as a result of less phone calls coming into the stores. It allows managers to reassign workers to do other tasks, such as making pizzas, which speeds order deliveries.

Running a one-day campaign is not partially common for any industry. "We are starting to see more of these takeovers, whether it's a one-day blitz, or a weekend promotion where the goal is mass reach," said Sam Sebastian, Google's industry director of classifieds and local. "We also see tie-ins on YouTube, where companies run a home page ad, which gets huge impressions and reach in 24 hours. Also, when you complement a search campaign with display ads, companies see nice lift in search, more search volume and better search conversion."

As the competition for customers has increased, pizza marketing has become increasingly technical. For example, Pizza Hut recently unveiled a Facebook application that facilitates online ordering and Dominos recently announced a system allowing TiVo customers to order through their set-top boxes.

Fueling online sales, Papa John's ran a buy-one-get-one-free offer on Facebook that ran one week through Dec. 1. Users who become "friends" on Papa John's Facebook profile page received a redemption code for a free medium cheese pizza with any pizza order. When Papa John's announced the promotion on Nov. 17, it had 10,302 Facebook fans, rising to 152,000 within two days. Fans have continued to sign up even after the promotion. As of Dec. 8 it had 186,981.

Stay tuned for a mobile display campaign, too, Ford said, in late December or early January. In July, Papa John's introduced Mobile Web app that allows consumers to place orders from smartphones. On Cyber Monday, when online retailers offer Web surfers holiday shopping bargains, the pizza place introduced a new iPhone application to its suite of digital widgets with optimized menus, entry fields and graphics, and a store locator linked to Google maps.

Since moving marketing online in 2001, Papa John's has developed a way to let people place orders up to 21 days in advance. It also added a "Repeat Last Order" function and the ability to let customers save their most frequent menu combinations. U.S. customers who set up their favorite orders at can order via SMS messages.

Sphere: Related Content


Unknown said...

Boy, I guess things really are changing...Used to be the common wisdom was small ads run frequently, perhaps along with so many other paradigm shifts, comes big ads one time works great!?

ScLoHo (Scott Howard) said...

Steve, thanks for your comment. However I think that you may have overlooked a part of this story and jumped to the wrong conclusion.

I'm willing to bet that those that responded to the Papa Johns offer saw the ad more than once. Many social media users are likely to check their MySpace or Facebook pages multiple times a day. So my bet is that if we dug deeper into those that responded to the P.J. offer, those that responded saw the ad more than once before they ordered pizza.

In the radio business that I work in, we can draw a lot of attention to a special offer from a client by airing lots of ads in a short time frame, which basically is what Papa Johns did. They also did something different, the banner ad with a great offer, which is the rest of the success equation.

The size of the ad is usually a reflection of the budget available.